BENDIGO-trained pacer Resurgent Spirit’s Tasmania Cup heat win on Sunday night might have been considered an upset by many, but for his driver Alex Ashwood, the strong performance had been coming.
“He did a great job. He had a good run and hit the line well,” said Ashwood of the former star youngster’s win at odds of $41.
“I’m happy with how he’s recovered – it looks like he’s somewhere back to his best.
“I thought he was way over the odds at $41; I thought he might have been a $10 chance to be honest.”
The impressive manner of the Kate Hargreaves-trained gelding’s win has Ashwood convinced there is no reason why they cannot repeat the feat in this Saturday night’s $75,000 Tasmania Cup final in Hobart.
“He’s got a great chance …. He’s got a bit of an awkward draw in barrier 12, but saying that I think the race is going to be to suit,” he said.
”There will be even more speed this week, so that will bring him right into the race.”
“I feel he’s approaching peak fitness.”
It’s a homecoming for both Ashwood, 24, who left Tasmania at age 17 to follow his harness racing dream, and Resurgent Spirit, who enjoyed a run of 13 straight wins at the start of his career in Hobart as a two and three-year-old.
His heat win boosted the now eight-year-old record on the Hobart track to 21 wins from 30 starts.
“I try and get back once or twice a year for a couple of good races,” said Ashwood.
“With the horse coming from Tassie and the owners being down here, it’s been a good result and a good reason to come home.”
Formerly trained by his breeder and owner Roger Whitmore, Resurgent Spirit was transferred to his new trainer 18 months ago and is now prepared by Hargreaves and Ashwood at their Shelbourne property.
Ashwood delivered full praise to Hargreaves, who combines harness racing duties with role as a teacher at Kennington Primary School, for a wonderful training performance.
“She’s stuck at home working the rest of the team, while I’m down here in Tassie. In saying that she wouldn’t be able to do that without John and Timmy Mannix, they’ve been a great help,” he said.
“It’s been a real good few weeks for the stable – we can’t complain.”
Saturday night’s drive will be Ashwood’s first in a Tasmania Cup final and will pit him against his father Rodney aboard the Dean Braun-trained War Dan, who was third behind Resurgent Spirit in Saturday’s heat.
“I know dad is excited about that …. I think he wants to beat me home more than anything at the moment,” he said.
It will be a busy evening at Elwick Park for Ashwood, who will also drive Resurgent Spirit’s sister Resurgent Dream for New Norfolk trainer Whitmore in the $20,000 George Johnson and also has two drives for his training father.
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