PARISIAN Artiste continued his march towards the rich Vicbred Super Series finals night at Melton on New Year's Eve by setting a new three-year-old trotting colts and gelding track record at Maryborough on Monday.
The Alex Ashwood-trained gelding blitzed his seven Vicbred heat rivals, setting a new mile rate mark of 1:58.3 for the 2190m in winning by 12.7-metres over My Used To Be and Bullion Harry.
Brilliantly driven by Tayla French, the son of Love You out of the mare Schleck made it three straight wins since his eye-catching third in last month's Group 1 Breeders Crown Final at Melton.
A hat-trick of victories has Ashwood and French quietly confident of Vicbred series success.
They further hope Parisian Artiste will have some company at harness racing headquarters on New Year's Eve.
Tay Tay, an impressive heat winner at Kilmore last week, will line up in the first semi-final of three-year-old fillies at Melton on Wednesday night, while La Serena is also engaged in a heat of the four-year-old trotting mares at Melton on Tuesday night.
Ashwood said Parisian Artiste, a winner of six of his last 10 starts, had continued to go from strength-to-strength with more racing under his belt.
"He was very impressive - I think Tayla can take full credit with how he has been going this preparation," he said.
"They get along like two peas in a pod. They love each other and he just runs for her and gives her that extra bit of effort.
"She's done a great job with Parisian Artiste. In saying that, he is in just great form at the moment.
"He seems like he's getting better and growing stronger with each run and is still growing in confidence.
"He just needs a good draw in the final and he won't be too far away."
Setting the scene for an intriguing, but open three-year-old colts and geldings final, Aldebaran Zeus, who won last month's Breeders Crown Final, and Utopia, who finished fourth, were equally impressive in winning at Maryborough on Monday.
"They are both very classy horses in their own right and have that x-factor about them," Ashwood said.
"In saying that, I don't think there is one standout three-year-old trotter this season.
"I know Kyvalley Hotspur and Keayang Ninja are not there in the Vicbred, but if we're all put in the same race and they all draw different, there's going to be a different winner every time.
"There's nothing between them, so it all comes down to draws.
"Fingers crossed we get the good draw and are not too far away."
Ashwood was confident of Tay Tay giving herself every chance of qualifying for the Group 1 final with another strong performance in the semis.
The Rock N Roll Heaven filly was an eye-catching fourth in the Breeders Crown final, won in style last month by Ladies In Red, and has since strung together consecutive wins at Charlton and Kilmore in perfect preparation for Wednesday night.
"She's another one who is getting better and better all the time, so I'm very excited for her," Ashwood said.
"Her connections are very pumped and excited. They've invested a lot of money over the years.
"She's drawn 12, which is not that great, but Ladies In Red has drawn 13, so she might get a little bit of a head start."
Ashwood, who only started training under his own name six months ago, in tandem with French, has quickly raced to 56 wins at the amazing winning strike rate of 35.5 per cent.
A crop of Vicbred series finalists would be undoubted recognition for the hard work of many at his Lord's Raceway-base.
"It's been a great team effort at the stables, everyone has been putting the hard yards in and it is really paying off," he said.
"We always have a high turnover of horses, so they are always coming and going, but that's how we operate.
"The better ones stay and the weaker ones win their couple of races and go and we get a new batch in.
"There's no real downtime, it's go, go, go and it's been a real team effort from the start."
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