CHARLTON trainer Greg Norman will be looking to cap off a solid year with his small team of horses with Belladonna Girl in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final for four-year-old pacing mares on Friday.
The ever-consistent mare will be the final starter of the year for Norman, who has efficiently notched up 19 Victorian wins for the season.
Those wins are highlighted by a pair of country cup wins at Gunbower earlier this month with Blue Coman and Ararat back in February with Zadaka and, of course, the most memorable of the lot with Belladonna Girl in the Group 3 Breeders Crown Graduate Mares Free For All at Melton in November.
That win was achieved at odds of $126.
While she will be nowhere near those odds on New Year's Eve, Belladonna Girl is an early $71 chance on the TAB.
That will not faze Norman, who has notched up a string of impressive feature race wins throughout his training career at long-odds.
He has every reason to be encouraged following third placings in both the mare's heat at Ballarat on December 16 and semi-final at Melton six days later.
"She's going well and we're happy with her - it's an ordinary draw (11), but it is what it is. We've had our share of good draws, just not this week," Norman said.
"On her best form she's a good chance.
"The good part to the race is, the two favourites haven't got draws that really suit them.
"Spellbound ($1.50) drew seven, so she's going to have to do a fair bit of work and Maajida ($2.50) drew eight, so she is going to have to do a bit of work too, especially if she wants to get off the fence. That evens it up a bit for everyone."
Both the Nathan Purdon-trained Spellbound and, in particular, the Emma Stewart-trained Maajida could not have looked any more impressive in winning their semi-finals on December 22.
Norman will be chasing his first Vicbred win, albeit from only a handful runners.
"They are hard to win, no doubt, you have to have the right horse and be in the right place at the right time," he said.
"Of course, back in Adelaide, we have the Southern Cross which is the equivalent of the Vicbred and I have won a few of them.
"She (Belladonna Girl) has had a good season. She hasn't won a lot of races, but she's run some quality races.
"She's always racing the best horses and one of the ones she did win was that free for all against the good mares.
"She is never far away and rarely runs a bad race."
Norman would like nothing better than to fly the flag for Charlton on one of Victorian harness racing's biggest nights.
"It's been a pretty good year for us - we're only a small team and we don't have a lot of starters," he said.
"There's only six or seven in the team and we've had maybe just over 100 starters (for 19 wins and 34 placings), so that's not too bad."
Belladonna Girl will be one of seven drives for the night for champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning, who has driven the mare in three of her seven career wins.
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