ELMORE trainer Keith Cotchin is convinced he has a pair of talented horses in Rossini and Exciter, but admits some reservations over their chances in the Breeders Crown Series semi-finals at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.
The Cotchin-trained pair are among a small band of Bendigo region pacers seeking qualification for the Group 1 finals on August 24.
Others include the Greg Norman/Charlton-trained Cee Cee America (3YO colts and geldings) and Chooz Reactor (3YO fillies), from the Heathcote stable of Ron Sheppard.
The region's leading trainer Glenn Douglas will also target a Breeders Crown feature with Ima A Lister in the Group 3 mares free for all.
As one of dozens of trainers already facing an uphill battle against the continued might of the powerful Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin team (the stable has 20 horses engaged in semi-finals), Cotchin will also have to overcome a poor draw with both of his youngsters.
"We've drawn badly, which is going to make it extra hard. We'll be pushing uphill I reckon," he said.
"They are both going well, but the draw just hasn't been kind to us.
"It will be interesting to see what happens with Rossini, he's drawn the better of the two at six, but goes into five. He will probably get a chance to work into it at some stage.
"Exciter has drawn 12, and that makes it very hard. Especially in these races - they are all good horses and have all earned their spot. Nothing's ever easy."
Rossini, who will contest the first semi-final of the three-year-old colts and geldings, has been racing in good-form, with a pair of seconds before a fifth in last Friday night's heat.
"He had no luck the other night - I hope he can really step forward," Cotchin said.
"He is a horse who is going places, that's for sure.
"Even Exciter (in the second semi-final) is a nice horse, but he's not the perfect package yet, he's just not quite there yet.
"He's showing us he is going to be good in time. He was very unlucky in a heat of the Sires and should have got through to the next round.
"He ended up winning the Vicbred 3YO Bronze. The other night (at Ballarat) he just got too far back and was outclassed and ran down the track
"On paper you would say he was well beaten, but he ran his last mile in 1:53. It was just an exceptionally fast heat.
"I'm happy with both them, but we just have to pray a bit with the draw."
Meanwhile, veteran trainer-driver Brian Gath hopes the Shepperd-trained Chooz Reactor could give her usual honest performance in the second semi-final of the three-year-old fillies..
"She's always a place chance because she's very honest and so well mannered," he said.
"She's in a bit over her head, but she's so honest that if she gets a nice trip, she could get through to the final if she lobs in the right spot.
"She hasn't quite won a race yet, but she's waiting for the door to open for her.
"The horse is beautiful to drive and she will acquit herself well, but the Crowns are hard to win."
Gath should know, he's won a few, including two that were claimed in Bendigo with Sassy Sarah (2YO fillies in 2001) and Bad Boy Truscott (2YOO trotters in 2003).
"It's a long process to prepare these horses for the Breeders Crown - it's a wonderful series," he said.
"(Finals night) is the greatest night in racing, every owner and trainer looks forward to it, just to have a runner."
Also on Breeders Crown duty is Bendigo driver Alex Ashwood, who will partner the Andy Gath-trained Night Spirit in a tough second semi-final of the 2YO colts and geldings.
The first of 12 races on Saturday night begins at 5.33pm, with the last at 10.57pm.
A RECAP OF THE LAST 10 DAYS IN HARNESS RACING:
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