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Tornado Valley capped his incredible rise from the middle grades of Canterbury racing to the top of Australasia’s trotting ranks by winning the $A150,000 (NZ$158,475) Interdominion Trotting Final at Melton on Saturday.
The New Zealand-bred, driven by Kate Gath, made a flying start from the mobile arm and crossed to the lead, effectively ending their rivals’ chances.
The 100-to-one outsider Sky Petite threatened to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Interdominion history in the home straight, but Tornado Valley stuck his neck out under Gath’s urgings to win the 2760m feature by a neck.
The victory was the Skyvalley 7yr-old’s 18th in 21 starts since joining Andy Gath’s Victorian stable.Tornado Valley left New Zealand the winner of just seven of 57 starts.
"When he first come to me, I didn’t have him long before we raced him. He was probably a little bit highly strung and a little bit light when I first got him. The horse had a good appetite and I feed them pretty big, so it might just be a combination of feeding and in our stable environment [that] he just seems to do well in my programme", Gath said.
"I really can’t give you the reason. From day one we just liked him."
Gath was quick to say that Torando Valley’s former trainer, Terry McMillan, deserved recognition for developing the trotter.
"Credit has to go to Terry, too. He looked after him and didn’t race him too much as a young horse."
Gath said he had long been a fan of Torando Valley and tried at length to buy the trotter for prominent owner, Norm Jenkins.
His wife, Kate, was not as enamoured when she saw replays of the horse’s races in New Zealand.
"It was funny.
"I showed Kate some of his replays when All Lit Up goes flying past him and she said ‘What did you buy that horse for?"’
Tornado Valley went some way to avenging the defeat of Gath’s former star trotting mare, La Coocaracha, in an
Interdominion final. She ran second after being posted three wide by the winner, Game Bid, in the 2002 final at Harold Park. New Zealand horses Speeding Spur and Monty Python finished in behind Tornado Valley and Sky Petite in third and fourth respectively.
The warhorse Speeding Spur could not sprint with Torando Valley after sitting on his back throughout. Monty Python showed his worth on the big stage yet again with a creditable fourth placing, after racing three back on the pegs.
"He did us proud during the series," Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson said.
"He needed more pressure, but that is what you get with opportunist horses. You need pressure because the race is only going to be run your way occasionally."