SHELBOURNE trainer Kate Hargreaves was a relieved but happy woman on Wednesday night after notching her first wins of the 2021 harness racing season.
Hargreaves, who ended a brilliant 2019-20 season campaign with 118 wins and 123 placings, had uncharacteristically gone without a winner with her first 25 starters during January - albeit without no shortage of placegetters (12).
The 19-day drought ended in style with Hargreaves scoring a win with the in-form four-year-old Beat City in race five, before making it a treble with a race-to-race double with one of the stable's stars Maestro Bellini and Elita in races seven and eight.
A fourth Hargreaves starter for the night Petrea Bromac wound up third behind the smart Aaron Dunn-trained youngster Isitwrongtobexcited, who blitzed his rivals in the three-year-old and older pace.
All three of the stable's winners were driven by different drivers.
Stable employee Jordan Leedham claimed the winning steer on Beat City, Jack Laugher took the reins on Maestro Bellini as one of five winners on the night for the former Tasmanian, and Hargreaves' training partner Alex Ashwood got the win on Elita.
Hargreaves took plenty of comfort in the treble, after the stable racked up an unlucky three seconds and a third from four runners at the previous meeting at Mildura on January 12.
"It wasn't as if the horses weren't going badly or anything, they were all going well and running places," she said.
"We were questioning ourselves a little bit, but we didn't change anything much, we just kept doing what we were doing knowing the winners would eventually come, which they did.
"It was fantastic to get a treble."
Hargreaves nominated Beat City's win as arguably the pick of the bunch, after the gelding sat in the death seat throughout, before overpowering the leader Vanity Bay in the straight to win by 3.4m over the fast-finishing Elegant Jewel.
It was the 2020 South Australian Derby placegetter's eighth win from 26 starts and his third win from four starts at the Mildura track.
"I was pretty impressed with Maestro Bellini too, I thought Bernie Winkle might get him in the straight, but he was really strong to the line," Hargreaves said.
"I was happy with them all to be honest.
"(Maestro Bellini) has been a bit of a surprise packet, I wasn't sure how he was he was going to go when we got him (in November) because of his high national rating, but he's done a super job."
Hargreaves was quick to praise a splendid front-running drive by Laugher, who ended the night with five wins and a second, from his eight drives.
"He had a terrific night and is a really great driver. If we ever need a metro claim or a spare driver we will always use him," she said.
"The horses really run for him."
The Hargreaves-Ashwood stable will have one runner involved on Saturday night's huge Ballarat Pacing Cup night card, with recent Melton winner Van Mara engaged in the NR 80 to 89 pace, which will close out the 10-race meeting at 10.30pm.
Hargreaves said the gelding would 'need a bit of luck', but would be competitive in a small seven-horse field.
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