McLovin in the zone, Gath says

The lure of the New Zealand Cup Carnival has led Victorian trainer Andy Gath to chase group 1 riches with Dunedin-bred trotter McLovin at Addington today.

McLovin is one of two Australian-trained raiders who will race in the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All.

Having a genuine winning chance in a group 1 trotting feature does not just allow Gath to add to his glittering harness racing resume.

It gives the horseman a handy excuse to be at the racing he describes as like no other.

"I generally come to cup week with or without my own horses,'' he said.

"It is a race meeting we don't have in Australia - we don't have anything like it.

"To be in a city where everyone is aware about the race - and you don't have to explain what harness racing is or what a sulky is - is pretty cool.''

Gath and wife Kate, who will drive McLovin, already have a trophy room full of group 1 titles from the past 12 months, largely thanks to their Interdominion winner, Tornado Valley.

McLovin added his first group 1 win to the couple's collection in stunning fashion with a huge three-wide effort to win the Bill Collins Trotters Mile at Melton.

That win, combined with a smooth passage to Christchurch, means the Otago-bred squaregaiter will go into today's 1980m feature at the peak of his powers.

"He is in the zone and we are really happy with him,'' Gath said.

"He was a bit unsettled for about 24 hours after he got over here, but since then he has been nice and relaxed.

"He has been eating well, he has been working really well and I have got no issues or concerns.''

McLovin downed fellow Australian raider Tough Monarch in his last-start group 1 win.

Tough Monarch will be a key rival today. McLovin is drawn to follow Tough Monarch out at the start from his second-row barrier draw.

"I originally thought it was a bad draw, but he could get a really good run through,'' Gath said.

"The opportunity should still be there for him to win.''

Tough Monarch's high gate speed makes him the likely leader in today's race.

With a good run through behind him, McLovin may be able to sit in the parked position outside him.

That has both positives and negatives.

"It would not be ideal to have to sit outside Tough Monarch and beat him, but it could be the only way for us to win the race,'' Gath said.

"I think when we beat Tough Monarch in his last start he had an off night - he is a quality horse.''

Gath has been referred to as "greatest of all time'' when it comes to eyeing New Zealand trotting talent to take to Australia.

Both McLovin and Tornado Valley were middle-grade trotters in Canterbury before joining his stable, near Melbourne.

McLovin was bred by Dunedin breeders Daryl and Anne Trainor, who sold the horse before he began racing in New Zealand.


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