NEWSTEAD harness racing trainer, driver, breeder and owner Brad Angove is banking on Sundon Courage's fighting capabilities again coming to the fore in Saturday night's Group 1 Maori Mile at Lord's Raceway.
The brilliantly performed stallion faces a tough task after drawing barrier 10 in the prestigious $50,000 trotting feature, but can by no means be discounted on either form or reputation.
The now nine-year-old has made habit of defying the odds across his stellar career, most recently in landing the Group 2 Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters Free For All at Tabcorp Park Melton in November at odds of 60-1.
He has since raced three times without luck, notching up a third at Melton in December and a fourth in his last start on Boxing Day at Ballarat behind Wobelee, who is a $7 chance in the Maori Mile.
Angove, who owns and bred the horse, admitted to having a quiet chuckle when Sundons Courage opened at odds of 100-1 for this Saturday night.
Those odds have since been slashed to a still more than generous 40-1 for a horse, who has continued to match it with the nation's best trotters from his first run as a two-year-old in March 2015, and is continuing to race in near-best career form.
"His sectionals have been as good as anyone's on his runs home, but it does make it hard from 10," Angove said.
"He's probably going as good as he ever has for a horse who just turned nine.
"It's a credit to the horse. He raced in the first two-year-old trot of his season (in 2015) and has been a good horse since day dot, racing against the best of them the whole way through his career.
"He's been in a lot of Group 1s, so it's a credit to him that he's never had a leg issue. And his personality, he's just been one of those marvel horses, who keeps coming back and keeps going better than he was the year before.
"The only real issue he's had is he tore a muscle in his back leading into the Inter Dominion a few years ago and he had to be scratched.
"He was going to make the finals but ended up having six months off. Besides that, it's the only issue he's had. He's just been brilliant all the way through."
Trained in the earliest part of his career by Brad's dad Chris at Muckleford, Sundons Courage has been back under Chris' guidance since mid-2021.
The son of the champion sire Sundon and the mare Truscott Photo finished fourth in last year's Maori Mile, won by McLovin, and will be driven by the in-form Michael Bellman, who has been aboard the stallion for his last seven starts, including his Melton win.
"Mick is driving really well (Sundons Courage) never seems to draw really well, so he always has to go back, lob him and run home," Angove said.
"Even his last start, he ran the fastest sectionals in the race and he ran fourth.
"His sectional times have been brilliant, but when you draw so hard and there are some fast ones off the front, you are up against it.
"He's never been the luckiest horse with draws."
He's been in a lot of Group 1s, so it's a credit to him that he's never had a leg issue. And his personality, he's just been one of those marvel horses, who keeps coming back and keeps going better than he was the year before.- Brad Angove
Chasing a seventh-straight victory after six in a row back home at Menangle, Angove declared the New South Wales raider Aldebaran Revani as the horse to beat ahead of the Andy Gath-trained Tornado Valley.
"She seems like a super-impressive horse, what she's been doing up in Menangle," he said.
"She has impressive gate speed and as a horse that has come over from America, she has definitely been one to watch.
"It will be a very interesting start, especially with Tornado Valley drawing the pole. He has so much gate speed and there are probably a lot of people thinking you can't cross.
"But Aldebaran Revani's gate speed at Menangle has been phenomenal, so we're in for an exciting start."
The Gaths - trainer Andy and driver Kate - will be doing some chasing of their own, in pursuit of a fifth Maori Mile win in seven years.
The husband-wife team has won the past three, two of them with Tornado Valley in 2019-20, who is the $2.30 favourite in this race, and last year with McLovin.
They also won the race with Glenferrie Flyer in 2016.
The Angoves will be hoping to cap a big nine days following an emotional Group 1 Vicbred Super Series victory with their two-year-old trotting filly Ebonys Avenger.
The daughter of Kvintet Avenger Fin and the mare Death Defying provided the family with a definite ray of sunshine following a rough year, marked by the loss of Brad's son.
"She's sensational. I told dad when she was 18 months old that she would win a Group race as a two-year-old - I thought she was pretty special," he said.
"Don't get me wrong, she waited until the last hour of the last day (of the season and year) to do it.
"She'll have a nice break now - she's earned it. A bit like Sundons Courage back in the day, she was in the first two-year-old trot of the season and went through and raced the whole season.
"It was a big season, probably not quite as big as (her stable-mate) Stingofawasp, but they'll both go to the paddock and have a few months off.
"With natural improvement and age, they should both be better and have another big season this year."
It was the Angoves' first Vicbred success since 2015, when they won the two-year-old trottings colts and geldings final with Sundons Courage.
"It wasn't the greatest year (2021), so dad has been doing a fair bit with the horses,' he said.
"Hopefully they keep ticking over and fingers crossed for Saturday night.
"As I've said, when you draw 10 in a 1600m race, it does make it awful hard to get into it, but he won't go down without a fight."
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