THE flourishing Kate Hargreaves-Alex Ashwood training partnership will break more new ground this weekend at Ballarat's Bray Raceway.
Fresh from a Wednesday night double at Mildura's City Oval Paceway, the young Shelbourne-based trainers will have their first runner in a heat of the Woodlands Stud Victoria Derby with Beat City.
The three-year-old gelding will line up in the second of three heats to be run on Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup night and comes into the race in winning form following back-to-back victories at Mildura (December 27) and Swan Hill (January 9).
Facing his toughest test in seven career starts, Hargreaves was confident Beat City would hold his own in a field headed by the smart Grant Dixon-trained colt Governor Jujon, a recent Group 2 winner at Menangle.
"It's nice to have horses that are nice enough to go around in those bigger races," she said.
"Obviously he's not quite up to those better horses, but he is certainly good enough to hold his own in races like that.
"It will be exciting for us and exciting for the connections.
"We're hoping he qualifies for the final, but he will need a bit of luck in running.
"He's going to be driven quietly up the fence, but he will need to be as close as he can be to the leaders when turning for home.
"You never know, you might see him sneaking up through a few gaps."
A bold performance from Beat City would continue the stable's momentum early in the new year.
Hargreaves and Ashwood have accounted for five of the 18 Bendigo region-trained winners to have scored on Victorian tracks in the first 16 days of January, with the two latest coming at Mildura.
The pair were quick to make an impression with the former Matthew Gath-trained mare Libba Racy breaking her maiden in race one, before Headline Act made it a race-to-race double with a dominant NR 46 to 51 victory.
Both mares were having their first start for the stable and were superbly driven by Ashwood, who now has 26 wins for the season.
"Neither of them have been with us for very long, so were very happy with the result,"
"Headline Act was trained by Jason Ross, but he has a full-time job and didn't really have the time to put into her, so he asked us to take her.
"We were pretty lucky to get her. I think she will only get better, she was pretty strong to them line. I was really impressed with her."
Hargreaves will be chasing a sentimental win at Wedderburn on Sunday with Rambunctious.
"I'm very excited about Sunday because all my family is from Wedderburn, so it's kind of like a home track to me," she said.
"We've also got Aaron Bain's horse Godofthunder in the Wedderburn Trotters Cup, and he's staying at our stable.
"He's come back from Tasmania and had a bit of a rest, but he is working well again at home. I definitely think he's a good chance."
WINNERS FLOW FOR BENDIGO REGION
Bendigo drivers dominated Wednesday night's meeting at Mildura's City Oval Paceway.
Highlighted by doubles to Ellen Tormey and Alex Ashwood, Bendigo drivers steered home six of the 11 winners on the card.
Ashwood picked up an early double with wins in the opening two races aboard the Kate Hargreaves-trained Libba Racy and Headline Act.
Tormey made it an impressive three-from-three when she won aboard the Sandra O'Connor-trained Best Of Beauty.
A prolific partnership at Mildura between Lockwood South driver Neil McCallum and home-track trainer Lachlan Prothero continued to reap rewards with another win for Magic in Her Moves.
The mare has won three of her last six starts, with each of her victories coming at Mildura.
Jayden Brewin collected his fourth win of the year with the Lyndon Hall-trained Ultimate Won, before Tormey capped an amazing night for herself and the locals by winning the last race aboard Clontarf Guy.
Bendigo region trainers have so far produced 18 winners in the month of January, headed by Hargreaves with five.
The driving ranks have combined for 20 wins, headed by Ashwood (five), Brewin (four), Tormey (three) and Shannon O'Sullivan (two).
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