LEGENDARY Bendigo reinsman Brian Gath says it will be a wonderful moment when the outstanding trotter Tornado Valley finally breaks the magical $1 million prize money barrier.
But that's not to say he won't be doing what he can to prevent it from happening in Friday night's $25,000 Aldebaran Park Bendigo Trotters Cup.
Tornado Valley, trained by Gath's nephew Andy, heads into the Group 3 feature with career earnings of $993,897.
A win and the $14,250 first prize would make Tornado Valley only the ninth trotter from this part of the world to surpass the $1 m mark, joining such stars as Lyell Creek, I Can Doosit, Sundons Gift, Speeding Spur, Take A Moment, Stent, Keystone Del and One Over Kenny.
No one, least of all Brian Gath, would begrudge the New Zealand bred but Queensland owned son of Skyvalley and Begin, who will start off 30m and will be driven by Andy's wife Kate, from bringing up the milestone at Lord's Raceway on Friday night.
"It's good for trotting if he does win it. It's wonderful to see a trotter hit the $1m mark, there hasn't been too many do it," he said.
"It doesn't happen much in any racing game, even gallopers find it hard to win $1million.
"But it's a good field - it's a trotters cup and they are not easy to win.
"(Tornado Valley) is a very smart horse, but so is my bloke."
In Nephew Of Sonoko, Gath hopes he has a contender capable of shaking things up.
The emerging five-year-old, who is trained at Sutton Grange by Leigh Graham, is on the path back from injury, but was definitely on an upwards trajectory last season with six wins and nine placings from 32 starts.
"He's a nice horse, he had a long spell and has only had two starts since and each time he's got a little bit better," Gath said.
"He will be suited by the stand and this type of race. He's quite a quality horse.
"He had a bit of an injury and was a bit fat after the spell, but he's trimming down now.
"He probably won't be at his best yet, but he will still perform well."
Gath is no stranger to Bendigo Trotters Cup success. He is chasing his third victory in the race
He first won the event in 1985 with Casino Lyn and added a second in 1992 aboard Beau Bradie.
First run in 1972, the inaugural cup, then worth $1000, was won by Gath's father, fellow Harness Racing Hall of Famer George, with Corop McElwyn, off a mark of 48 yards.
Meanwhile, Andy and Kate Gath are chasing their second cup in a row after winning in 2019 with the popular McLovin.
The race was not run in 2020 due to COVID-19 and the move to regional racing.
Brian Gath said he had fond memories of his two previous cup wins, Beau Bradie for Katrina Fitzpatrick and Casino Lyn for the late Alan McLean.
"I think I may have been up the front and led in both of them and won, but it was a long time ago," he said.
"I wasn't aware my father George won the first one - he won quite a lot of trotters cups all over the place.
"Cups are very hard to win, particularly trotters cups - you have to do everything right, stay well and sprint a bit and you have to get away from the stand start and get a clear run.
"I hope it's a fine night and they get a good crowd."
Di Li stepping up for Shipway
Brett Shipway will carry modest expectations into Friday night's Group 3 Bendigo Trotters Cup with Di Li.
But the Carisbrook owner-trainer, who is generally an astute placer of his trotters, says he's more than happy to have the mare step up against the likes of Group 1 performers Tornado Valley and Sparkling Success to see what his mare is capable of.
"We're just sticking our toe in the water, having a look at the good horses," he said.
"It's a big step up, but sometimes you have to stick your toe in the water and see how cold it is.
"You never know if you don't go.
"We're not expecting much big, it will be nice to just keep up with them and see if she can go up a grade one day.
"She's been a good little horse to us, she had a few little injuries as a foal, but we've poked along."
A winner of her past two starts at Maryborough and Charlton, Di Li proved her worth with a second at Group 2 level earlier this year in the final of the Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship, on the same night as Tornado Valley claimed the Group 1 Great Southern Star.
She will be driven by Michael Bellman.
The Bendigo Trotters Cup will be run at 8.10pm, race seven on a packed 12-event program.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.