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  • Provincial Racing NSW


THE Canterbury night season is over, and Brett Lazzarini is surely disappointed!

But the good news is that, whilst he won’t get the chance for a hat-trick next week after winning races at the last two Friday night fixtures, last night’s winner Steel Blaze is on an ATC Australian Derby path.

The Kembla Grange trainer announced the Derby plan after his $31 rank outsider upset fancied pair Sunlord ($2.80 favorite) and second favorite Don Pedro ($3.50) in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1900m) for three and four-year-olds.

The Real Steel three-year-old settled last at the post the first time, but it was a different story at the business end.

Ridden by Reece Jones and appreciating the rise to 1900m at his third run back, he lengthened stride once out into the clear in the straight and powered to the post to follow up stablemate Life Coach’s breakthrough a week earlier (coincidentally also in the second race on the program).

A $30,000 Inglis Ready2Race graduate in 2022, Steel Blaze clinched his second win, confirming the opinion his trainer has held of him from early days.

“He was playing around on the track one morning when I worked him with Wild Chap (Newcastle Group 3 Cameron Handicap winner) and he gave him a big start and beat him home,” Lazzarini explained.

“Steel Blaze hadn’t raced then, and I knew then we might have something a bit special.

“However, we had to stop him early last spring when the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick was on the agenda.

“He was gelded and I spent a month walking and cantering him before he went for a break.

“Steel Blaze has come back a better horse and, whilst the Derby is our aim, I have no doubt he will be even better next season as a four-year-old.”

The $2m Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) will be run at Randwick on the opening day of The Championships (April 6), and Lazzarini now has to decide whether the gelding has one or two runs leading up to the classic.

“It’s a month to the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 23, and I’m not sure yet whether we will give Steel Blaze another run in between,” he said.

There is a real local flavour to Steel Blaze. His dam, the Snitzel mare Aliyana Tilde, was prepared by Kembla Grange trainer Kerry Parker, and was narrowly beaten by Streama in the 2012 ATC Oaks (2400m) at Randwick.

Aliyana Tilde was placed three times at racing’s elite level, including a third in the 2013 Sydney Cup (3200m), also at Randwick.

Whilst it’s full steam ahead with Steel Blaze, such is unfortunately not the case with last week’s Canterbury winner Life Coach, who has had a setback and may now not get the chance for a shot at the Provincial-Midway Championships this autumn.


Meanwhile, fellow Kembla Grange trainer Theresa Bateup was successful at Canberra yesterday with lightly-raced Direct Fire, who won the Guineas Preview (1400m) at $11, with Kayla Nisbet aboard.

It was the Dracarys three-year-old’s second victory from only six starts, having made a winning debut at the Sapphire Coast last November, skipping Maiden class to land a Class 1 Handicap (1000m).

Direct Fire is a younger half-brother to Bateup’s good mare Crackalacka (by Poet’s Voice), the winner of five races and a Provincial-Midway Championships heat placegetter last year.

Direct Fire was a $5000 weanling purchase at the Gold Coast in 2021, and has already returned nearly $50,000 in prizemoney.

He is now exempt from ballot for the $100,000 Listed Canberra Guineas (1400m) for three-year-olds, to be run at the Black Opal Stakes and Cup meeting on Sunday, March 10.

Story John Curtis, February 24, 2024 - Pics supplied

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