BENDIGO region trainers will be aiming to turn their Group 1 Victoria Oaks and Victoria Derby dreams into a reality at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.
The first of two sensational back-to-back Saturday nights of racing at Bendigo will be co-highlighted the heats of Victoria's premier three-year-old events and the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint.
A sprinkling of local chances adorns the heats of the rich three-year-old features, with Strathfieldsaye's Julie Douglas the best represented.
Douglas, the state's leading trainer this season, has Captain Confetti, last start Mildura winner Ozzie Playboy and Treacherous Saint, targeting a spot in next weekend's $200,00 Victoria Derby Final (2650m).
They will be joined in derby pursuit by the Charlton pair of Apieceoflou, from the Greg Norman stable, and Platinum Stride (Shane Sanderson).
The region will be further represented in the Oaks qualifiers by the Douglas-trained filly Pray Tell and the Ellen Tormey-trained Twisted Bliss, who will go head-to-head in the second heat, headlined by the undisputed favourite Ladies In Red, from the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable.
Highlighting the severity of the task for their rivals, Stewart and Tonkin have the first five favourites in pre-post markets for the final.
That has not dampened the enthusiasm of Tormey, who is daring to dream with Twisted Bliss, and would like nothing better to sneak across the road from her Junortoun stable and return a few hours later with an Oaks berth locked in.
A winner of three of her 20 starts and placed a further nine times, Twisted Bliss will start from gate nine, with her two runs this preparation, for two placings, offering Tormey some encouragement she can perform well enough to progress.
"I was really happy with her last run, she hit the line really nicely. She felt a lot sharper than her first run," she said.
"The more racing she has, generally the better she gets, but she's probably just that rung below the better ones.
"A lot will depend on how she handles the trip.
"It's not the worse draw, I'll probably just drop to the fence and if she gets out from there she's probably capable of qualifying.
"My hopes aren't too high. Ladies In Red is in there, but we were always going to meet a few really good ones getting this far.
"She'll probably just appreciate sitting back and being driven quiet. She can hit the line if you drive her quiet, it's just a question mark how she handles the distance."
Tormey hopes to reward the long-time support of Twisted Bliss' owners Paul Thompson and his family, from her former home at Charlton
"I actually drove her mother (Prestigious Stride) when I was starting out, so he's looked after me fairly well since I started," she said.
"Now I have her and I had her little brother, who has just gone for a spell. He is great to train for.
"He loves his horses, so he'll be rapt to see her in it."
Tormey said it was a huge thrill for the Bendigo Harness Racing Club to get the opportunity to host two such big nights of racing, including next week's finals, which will be run on the same night as the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup.
"It's such a good track to have these races at - not just because it's over the road - it's a very unbiased track, you can win from anywhere," she said.
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