Red-letter night for Tonkin Stewart Racing

Supplied. Photo: Stuart McCormick

Tim O'Connor

It was another red-letter night for trainer Emma Stewart and partner Clayton Tonkin at Tabcorp Park Melton as their champion Ladies In Red confirmed herself as Australasia’s best three-year-old filly.

The Cardigan-based juggernaut claimed four Breeders Crown Series Group 1 finals on a lucrative evening when their horses pocketed a large chunk of the $1.46 million on offer throughout the meeting.

And while many of their stars sparkled, it was the performance of Victoria’s pin-up girl that left harness racing fans with their mouths open.

Despite having her picket fence ruined by back-to-back defeats in the heat and semi-final, Ladies In Red was backed into favouritism for the $200,000 elite level contest and she justified the support with a stunning display.

Much was made of the likely speed in the race and it certainly played out that way, with regular driver David Moran sitting quietly on Ladies In Red back in the field until making his bid for glory down the back straight. The filly towed up the three-wide line, hit the front approaching the straight and raced clear to score over stablemate Joanna and top Kiwi raider Bettor Twist (Nathan Purdon), who boxed on well after a tough run in the breeze.

“The times were just off the chart and the way she just joined in, it was unbelievable,” Tonkin said after the race which rated a sizzling 1:53.1 over the 2240m trip.

“Everyone has been a little bit disappointed with her the last couple of weeks, but we haven’t been. She just shows how brilliant she is.

“She got beaten a couple of times and people start doubting her. I think she is very, very special and when you see them win the big races like that, it means a lot.”

Ladies In Red is now a 14-time winner – three of those at Group 1 level – for Lauriston Bloodstock’s Bill and Anne Anderson.

Ultra-talented young squaregaiter Just A Bit Touchy put everything together on the big stage and landed the stable’s first Group 1 on Saturday night when she blitzed a quality field to win the Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown Series two-year-old trotting fillies’ clash.

Reinswoman Kate Gath allowed the daughter of Father Patrick to settle into a rhythm from her outside back row draw and then gained three-wide cover in the final lap before sprinting too good for her rivals.

“It was super, she was so far back and they were running along. I just thought she only had to do everything right and she was going to beat them,” Tonkin said of his filly, who he part owns along with the Big Wookie Racing Group, Les McMillan, Robert Smart and Ben Prentice.

“I think she’s a very special filly, she showed that in the Redwood against the boys. She will be pretty dominant.”

Act Now had shown he was top of the class with a brilliant front-running display in last month’s Victoria Derby and produced a similar performance to take out the IRT Australia Breeders Crown Series 3YO Colts and Geldings Final.

Driver Jodi Quinlan used the horse’s customary gate speed to cross and lead from barrier five, and from there it was little more than a formality.

The son of Somebeachsomewhere, who is raced by owners/breeders Bruce and Vicki Edward, dashed home too good for Yambukian (Andy Gath) and Bettor Call Me (Matthew Craven) to secure his second career success at the elite level.

“He’s just a good horse and he was on song tonight,” Quinlan said.

The Group 1 party finished with Encipher, who upstaged eight of her stablemates to take out the Ride High Breeders Crown Series 2YO Fillies Final.

In a race of moves and jostling for positions, Kate Gath got the daughter of Captaintreacherous off the inside from barrier eight and rolled around to sit outside leader Petillante by the bell. That’s where she stayed until drawing past the tiring front-runner approaching the straight, before holding off all rivals – including an unlucky race favourite Sounds Perfect – in the run to the line.

“Full credit to her, I love her to bits. She’s so tough,” Gath said.

“Imagine when she gets a good draw and finds the fence what she’ll do to them.”

Encipher, who won the first two starts of her career in South Australia, is now a three-time victor for owner-breeder Tyson Linke.

The Tonkin Stewart Racing team claimed a staggering six of Saturday night’s 10 races, with new acquisition Honolua Bay taking out the Hyland Breeders Crown Championship for four-year-old colts and geldings before Maajida prevailed for the first time this preparation in the Nutrien Equine Breeders Crown Championship for four-year-old mares.