Stewart seals two berths

Honolua Bay (Stuart McCormick)

Tim O'Connor

Two of trainer Emma Stewart’s biggest stars claimed Inter Dominion Pacing Championship heat wins at her home track on Saturday evening.

Act Now and Honolua Bay both took out qualifiers at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway to pocket maximum points from the opening night of the series.

After drawing barrier seven, Act Now was trapped wide in the early stages of his heat but found a spot in the one-one when New South Wales visitor Expensive Ego (Belinda and Luke McCarthy) moved up outside race favourite and leader Mach Dan (Stewart-Mark Pitt).

Jodi Quinlan then waited patiently before presenting the reigning Victorian 3YO Colt or Gelding of the Year at the top of the straight, and he finished hard to haul in the two front-runners to win by a metre-and-a-half on the line.

“He travelled up really good and then when he got to the outside of them – he sort of gets to them and it’s a bit of a dog-fight for him – but he stuck his head out when it counted,” Quinlan said.

Honolua Bay strung together eight-straight wins when he joined Stewart’s team from former trainer David Aiken, but had suffered a little run of defeats leading up to the Inter Dominion heats.

He bounced back with a gutsy performance from the death seat throughout the last lap to beat interstate raiders Zeuss Bromac (Paul and Gavin Fitzpatrick) and Majestic Cruiser (Jason Grimson-Cameron Hart).

David Moran sent Honolua Bay from barrier 10 to up outside Zeuss Bromac at the bell, and the five-year-old toughed it out through 28.9 and 26.3 closing quarters to prevail by a neck.

“He’s never really been a horse known to sort of tough it out too much, but he was really good tonight…,” Moran said.

Jess Tubbs-trained Better Eclipse claimed the third and final heat of the evening from barrier one.

Driver Greg Sugars was forced to go for the re-take when he was crossed by outsider A Gs White Socks (Belinda and Luke McCarthy), but then held the front and ripped home in a 55.4 last half to win by almost two metres.

Narutac Prince (Stewart-Moran) flashed home for second, with A Gs White Socks hanging on for third.

“He’s a lovely horse. He’s starting to become a real all-round package,” Sugars said.

“We just love him and hopefully there’s still more improvement in him yet.

“He’s still relatively young as far as race starts go compared to a lot of his rivals through the series, so you’d think this series is going to do him the world of good and next year and the year after hopefully we will be much better for the experiences.”

The Inter Dominion Pacing Championship will be held at Tabcorp Park, Melton on December 10.

Tim O’Connor