A TOUGH heat win to Apieceoflou on the opening night of the Mildura Cup Carnival has filled Charlton trainer Greg Norman with plenty of confidence heading into Saturday's finals night.
The smart three-year-old gelding showed plenty of resolve to come from three-wide and well back in the field at the bell, to eventually wear down the pacemaker My Superannuation and claim a half-head win in the opening event on the opening night of the popular three-night carnival.
The locally-trained Ian Raymond, driven by Lockwood South's Neil McCallum, finished third.
All honours, however, went to the winner, who collected his fourth win in eight Australian starts, since his arrival from New Zealand late last year.
The win vindicated Norman's good opinion of Apieceoflou, who was driven by champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning, and should prove hard to beat again in Saturday night's $10,000 final.
"It was a very tough win .... it's very hard to win from back there when they go 27.9 in the third quarter," he said.
"He's always been a nice horse, he stays pretty good and is a tough sort of horse.
"He's always going to win his share of races.
"There's a few there in the final, who go pretty well, but we'll be reasonably confident.
"The other heat winner Summaterra went well too. We are probably going to draw out the back somewhere, so it will be that little tougher again.
"Summaterra led and I'm sure if My Superannuation leads again, she'll be hard to catch."
Norman's Mildura Pacing Cup hope Zadaka missed a start in the $60,000 final after finishing his heat in sixth place behind the Emma Stewart-trained Mach Dan.
The eight-year-old, who earlier this year won the Ararat Pacing Cup, will instead line up in the $10,000 free for all on Saturday night.
Norman will have plenty of extra cause for excitement on finals night, with his highly-touted stable newcomer Aladdin to contest the $14,000 Mildura Guineas.
By the same sire (Sweet Lou) as Apieceoflou, Aladdin will be making his Australian debut on Saturday night.
The gelding was sold late last year to the Cormack family, who race under their AB & T Cormack Racing Pty Ltd banner, only days before his win in the $200,000 Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million 3YO Colts and Geldings Final (2200m) at Alexandra Park on New Year's Eve.
Aladdin arrives at Charlton with a record of four wins and seven placings from his 17 New Zealand starts for prize money of $155,789.
"The boys bought him on the Wednesday and he won on the Saturday, so he's been a good buy already," Norman said. "The pressure is on me Saturday."
Fellow Charlton trainer Michael Gadsden has labelled Doitson's effort to qualify for the $25,000 Tenderprint Australia Cup on Saturday night as a 'dream come true'.
The six-year-old gelding will head into the race with a strong chance following his eye-catching second in Tuesday night's heat.
Gadsden, who grew up in Robinvale, about an hour from Mildura, has always dreamed of having a runner in one of the big finals on Mildura Cup night and will this year gets his wish.
Doitson will be joined in the final by another Charlton horse Sea Hawke. The Shane Sanderson-trained five-year-old finished fifth behind Krafty Bart in the same heat as Doitson.