FIVE months on from having his first starter under his own name, the training career of Alex Ashwood has kicked into overdrive.
The young Bendigo trainer-driver is continuing to rack up the wins with alarming regularity.
Heading into this Saturday night's Breeders Crown semi-finals night at Melton, Ashwood has amassed an impressive 39 winners from 108 starters since branching out, at the brilliant strike rate of a touch over 36 per cent.
Those numbers have established him as Australia's leading strike-rate trainer, ahead of Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith (34.39 per cent) and his good mate Aaron Bain (32.18 per cent).
His win-place ratio is an even more impressive 69.44 per cent.
Ashwood would like nothing better than to cap a fruitful five months with a few Breeders Crown Series finalists.
He already has one following an exciting win by the three-year-old trotter Parisian Artiste in Thursday's heats at Maryborough.
Bred by Yabby Dam Farms and trained by Anton Golino in his early days before being sold as a maiden, Parisian Artiste had to do it tough outside the leader Bromwich, but underlined his class by being strong to the line with Tayla French in the sulky.
An eye-catching third in his Victoria Trotters Derby heat late last month, the emerging trotter is rated by Ashwood as is his best 'winning chance' in the Breeders Crown.
"But in saying that, there are another five or six horses that could win it in the trotting ranks," he said.
"He's still learning at the moment, but when he matures, I'm sure he can take a few steps up."
With their finals spot booked, Ashwood is now hoping Parisian Artiste might have some company going into finals night on Saturday, November 20.
He has the two-year-old gelding Lightning Jash and three-year-old filly Tay Tay lining up in Saturday night's semi-finals and will head to Melton with a degree of confidence in both horses.
"I think Lightning Jash will qualify for the final from the draw," he said.
"He's going to get a good trail from barrier eight - he should be three-fence and if he's three-fence he should qualify.
"In saying that he needs to step up and take that next step again.
"He needs to do is acclimatise to the tempo of the style of racing against the better ones.
"He's a nice horse, but he's just below the really good ones at the moment, but when the penny drops I don't think he'll be too far behind them."
A winner last week at Terang before finishing fourth in her Breeders Crown heat behind Tough Tilly, Tay Tay will need a fair bit of luck after drawing outside the back row.
But on the plus side, Ashwood insists the filly is in career-best form.
"She has drawn absolutely out in the car park. She was terrific in the heat and I think she can still get through," he said.
"She will only get better with more racing this prep and again next prep after a spell."
Ashwood headed into this week on a high following a polished win by Wow You Can Dance at harness racing headquarters last Saturday.
The four-year-old Art Major gelding notched up his sixth win from 21 starts with a convincing front-running victory, capping a solid run of form at the surprising odds of $23.
"He was terrific. He's always had his fair share of ability and he came out and put the writing in the wall with a couple of good prior runs before Saturday," Ashwood said.
"I thought he was well over-the-odds. He's been going well and racing handy enough horses.
"I didn't think the race was any stronger at all and he'd been going around at about $5 or $6 per race beforehand, so I was quite surprised to see that."
Ashwood said Wow You Can Dance had enjoyed a light week and would head to Sydney in a week or two to contest a couple of mile races.
"He'll come back from there and have a spell and probably get ready for Tassie."
Wow You Can Dance was quickly followed onto the winner's list by Beach Wreck and Talent Agent at Cobram on Monday and the four-year-old mare Roquefort Cheese at Terang on Tuesday.
Ashwood was chuffed with the performance of the three-year-old Talent Agent in his first start for the stable, following on from a win and a third in his final two runs prior to his arrival from New Zealand.
"He's a nice horse, who has his fair share of ability," he said.
"Going forward I think he's going to do a very good job for us.
"He's very green, but in saying that, he has a pretty big motor and should go onto bigger and better things."
A win to Roquefort Cheese came in her first start back on Victorian soil, following a two-month-five-race campaign in Tasmania under the direction of Ashwood's father Rodney, which featured one win.
"She arrived from Tassie looking terrific and has only been in my care for the last 10 days or so," he said.
"She found a nice race at Terang and won accordingly."
Based at the Bendigo Harness Racing Centre for now with his partner French, the team has 22 horses in work, with another half a dozen rising two-year-olds on the verge of coming into work.
Ashwood's ability in the sulky shows no sign of waning, with a treble at Cobram pushing him past the 100-win mark for the second time in his career.
He is certain to eclipse his 2019-20 total of 107, which came during an extended season.
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