A two-year-old pacer named after an AFL superstar is currently the talk in harness racing and is a hot favourite to win a Group 1 this week.
A pacer named after Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca is setting Australian harness racing alight.
Brilliant two-year-old colt Petracca blazed his way around Melton in a recent trial and then impressively won his first start in a heat of the big Bathurst Gold Crown last Friday night.
Petracca is favourite for Friday night’s $110,000 Group 1 Gold Crown final despite a tricky back row draw (gate 11).
One of harness racing’s biggest owners, the Geelong-based Danny Zavitsanos, is a fanatical Melbourne supporter and named Petracca in the days after the Demons’ drought-breaking premiership last year.
And it does not stop there.
“Petracca isn’t the only one. I’ve got another nice two-year-old called Gawn and wanted to name one after Clayton Oliver as well. They wouldn’t let me have just Oliver, so I’ve called him Oliver Dan. He’s also showing plenty of early promise,” Zavitsanos said.
Zavitsanos knew Petracca had talent, but admitted he was “blown away” by the colt’s blazing Melton trial win three weeks ago.
“The trial was enormous and that’s why we took him up to Bathurst without even racing him down here (Victoria) first,” he said.
“The heat win was good because he copped an early check, lost his balance and Nathan (Jack, driver) had to use him up a fair bit early to whiz around and take the lead. He was still good enough to sprint home strongly again at the finish.”
It capped a big week of footy and racing for Zavitsanos.
“Two wins for Petracca in a week,” he laughed.
“It was great to see the Demons open the season with a win and Petracca play so well. Then we made it two wins in a week when Petracca won his (Bathurst) heat.
“The Demons looked great last week. I’m fairly confident they can go back-to-back.”
Petracca the pacer stayed in Bathurst after his heat and co-trainer Clayton Tonkin gave Zavitsanos a glowing report after trackwork.
“We certainly didn’t get the draw we wanted. It’s tricky from the back row, but Clayton has been really happy with him since, especially his work yesterday, so we just don’t need any bad luck,” he said.
Bathurst starts a busy period for Zavitsanos with another of his stars, Group 1 Newcastle Mile winner Mach Dan, across in New Zealand preparing for the new slot race the $NZ900,000 The Race at Cambridge on April 14.
“We’ve sent him across to Mark Purdon for the race and he’s happy with how he’s settled in. It’s exciting to have a runner in the new race,” Zavitsanos said.
The last time Zavitsanos sent a horse from Australia across to Purdon saw Cruz Bromac score an upset win in New Zealand’s biggest race, the 2019 NZ Cup.
* Adam Hamilton is a paid contributor writing on harness racing for News Corp
Originally published as Harness racing: Two-year-old pacer Petracca favourite for Gold Crown final at Bathurst