Lauren Harris received an early Christmas gift Thursday night at Angle Park, after Handsome Shiraz ($5.90) produced a top class effort to win the Group 3 Brian Johnstone Memorial Final.
It was an even event on paper, with several accomplished sprinters making it through the three week series. Bruce Lellmann would have two runners in the event, with ultra-strong chasers Stack ‘Em Flat ($3.30) and Honky Tonk Girl ($7.10) both given excellent chances.
Speedster, Such Is Life ($6.60), was always going to try and set the pace, along with Puppy Championship winner Wikena ($3.30). The only runners unwanted in betting were Archer Street ($21.90), Ultimate Passion ($26.90) and rank outsider, Delightful Bond ($42.50).
Once the lids opened, the race started to pan out as expected, with Such Is Life showing her customary dash to set a first split of 4.44. Honky Tonk Girl was carving over from box seven and Handsome Shiraz stuck was in traffic. At the other end of the scale, Ultimate Passion made things hard for itself by missing the kick, while Stack ‘Em Flat has dropped out the back to set up its run.
Down the back, and Such Is Life was high-balling out in front, Wikena had made a mid-race move but was held up for a run. But approaching the top turn, the field started to pack and the race was about to change complexion. Honky Tonk Girl was whipping around the pack, Handsome Shiraz was pushing along the rails, and Archer Street and Wikena was thereabouts in a packing field.
Around the home turn, Handsome Shiraz had found the front, but Honky Tonk Girl wasn’t done with. Fortunately for connections, Handsome Shiraz was able to find the line, three-quarters of a length in front of Honky Tonk Girl. Archer Street had held on for third from the fast finishing Stack ‘Em Flat who found himself too far back to make an impact. Wikena was close up behind the placegetters while Such Is Life tired back amongst the tail-enders.
Handsome Shiraz completed the 515m journey in 29.86, which improved her previous best of 29.93 set last week in the semi-finals. Prize money for the son of Bombastic Shiraz and Bar Crusher now exceeds $30,000.
Owners B. Kenwick and P. Stagg have had a nice ride with this dog, including making the final of the Classic 2010 Prelude (2) final last month. He took six starts to break maiden status before steadily rising through the grades, eventually winning three on end. With its current form and in the capable hands of Lauren Harris, Handsome Shiraz looks right at home on the podium of feature events in South Australia.