NEPHEW Of Sonoko has further enhanced his reputation as one of the state's most exciting young trotting prospects with a third win in five starts under the regional racing format at Lord's Raceway.
The Ross Graham-trained four-year-old underpinned his class by staving off a determined challenge from the Kate Hargreaves-trained Well Defined to win off 20-metres on Monday night.
Sundons Courage, who started as the backmarker off 40m, was 18.5m back in third.
Graham said it was another nice win for Nephew Of Sonoko, who has certainly 'come of age' in the past few months.
"It will be interesting to see how he goes against the rest of the state when things get a bit back to normal, although we are still a long way from that yet," he said.
"As of next week, there'll be three regions start racing against one another, with Shepparton, Kilmore and Bendigo getting put into one region.
"There will be a few other different nice horses to go around against.
"He went well the other night ... he did have a 20m advantage over Sundons Courage.
"I kind of thought at the top of the straight, Well Defined was going to peel off his back and outsprint him to the line, but he managed to hold him off. (Well Defined) has definitely stepped up.
"But my young fellow has definitely come of age and has come a long way. He's only four, and to be going around against the older horses, he's done a pretty good job."
Nephew Of Sonoko's formline during the first phase of regional racing now reads three wins and two seconds.
Only Sundons Courage, who Graham rates as the region's best trotter, and Aleppo Murphy have beaten the son of Danny Bouchea out of Sister Of Sonoko in that time.
The gelding entered the restricted period already in handy form following a win at Tabcorp Park Melton on March 21.
An undoubted feature of his recent success has been the brilliance in the sulky of champion reinsman Brian Gath.
The Little Master has helped himself to eight victories during the regional lockdown, including all three of Nephew Of Sonoko's wins.
"He gets along with the horse very well ... they suit one another I think," Graham said.
"Brian doesn't get the drives he used to, but there is no doubting his abilities.
"He's still one of the best drivers going around."
Their association will continue on Thursday, with Gath to drive the Graham-trained Myrtle Vale for the first time in the NR 56 to 67 trot.
The six-year-old mare is a solid chance in early markets at $5, behind the favourite Rigondeaux ($3), who is chasing a third-straight win for Maddie Ray and Haydon Gray, and the Carla Innes-Goodridge trained Zarem ($4.80).
"(Myrtle Vale) put in a fairly big performance at her last start (behind Rigondeaux), but didn't have a whole lot of luck," Graham said.
"She's got an inside draw to contend with and she's not a real easy horse to drive, she can overrace a bit, but I'm sure Brian will work her out."
Graham will also be hoping for good things from Azza, who will be driven by the in-form Tayla French, in the NR 51 to 56 pace.
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