SHELBOURNE-based Alex Ashwood's first venture as a solo trainer continues to reap early rewards after nothing could separate his mare Still Hungover and the Shaun Kittel-trained Orbie at Cranbourne on Saturday night.
The dead heat in race three on the program was not without a stroke of fortune for both horses, with the meeting called off soon afterwards due to a heavy fog.
Officials had earlier encountered difficulties in separating Still Hungover and Orbie in the fog-affected finish.
For his part, Ashwood - who was not at the track, but in Darwin - was content to share the spoils of victory and continue the early success he has enjoyed as a trainer in his own name.
The dead heat was his five-year-old mare's second win in four starts with Ashwood as her trainer.
Still Hungover, a nationally 90-rated pacer, was formerly trained in Tasmania by his father Rodney Ashwood, who eked out 11 wins from 34 starts with the well-performed daughter of Sutter Hanover.
The final three of those starts were in Victoria before the mare transferred to Alex ahead of his seventh at Melton on June 19.
Still Hungover quickly hit his straps with a win at harness racing headquarters on June 26, before a tough third at Bendigo's Lord's Raceway the following week and Saturday night's dead-heat.
With officials taking plenty of time to finalise the result, Ashwood said he had not felt confident of outlasting the fast-finishing Orbie, but was happy to settle for the dead heat.
"I thought she might have got nailed on the line, but we will take what we can take," he said.
"She's done a great job since coming from over from Tassie, I couldn't be happier with her.
"She was always a handy two-year-old and three-year-old and even a four-year-old over there and did come over here for a couple of little campaigns beforehand.
"She looked like she'd do the job the first time she came over, but at the end of it she got really crook and we had to send her home and reset, but know she's back."
In the trainer's absence, Still Hungover was driven by in-form reinswoman Ellen Tormey.
Ashwood is hoping to see further progress from the obviously talented mare, who pushed past the $143,000 prize money mark at Cranbourne, a more than solid return from her 38 trips to the racetrack.
"It would be nice if she could take another step up and measure up against the better mares coming into the big races later in the year," he said.
"If everything goes to plan, we'll go in that direction."
Despite plenty of success in the sulky, Ashwood - a major factor in the success of Kate Hargreaves' training operation at Shelbourne over the past few seasons - believes training is where his future lies.
Albeit he has no firm plans to walk away from driving anytime soon.
"Eventually I want to go full-time training, but at the moment I'm happy poking around with her," he said.
Another big season in the sulky for the 27-year-old has so far yielded 49 winners and a spot in the top-10 on the state drivers' premiership.
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