CLASS trotting mare Im Ready Jet enhanced her already brilliant reputation by claiming her fourth Group 1 victory, winning the $50,000 Aldebaran Park Maori Mile at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.
The Anton Golino-trained five-year-old continued her red-hot run of form, prevailing over a small, but exceptional field of squaregaiters, atoning for her third in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final behind Queen Of Crime on New Year's Eve.
Her win broke Andy and Kate Gath's stranglehold on the Bendigo Pacing Cup night trotting feature.
The Long Forest trainer-driver team were chasing a fourth straight Maori Mile victory after wins with Tornado Valley in 2019 and '20 and McLovin in 2021.
They also won the race in 2016 with Glenferrie Typhoon.
Eyeing victory for the third time in the race, Tornado Valley had to settle for third place after attempting to lead all the way before being caught late by Im Ready Jet and Majestic Man, who finished less than 2m from the winner in second place.
With the mare's regular driver Jack Laugher unfortunately on suspension, Jason Lee picked up the winning steer on Im Ready Jet and was naturally grateful for the opportunity.
"Firstly to Jack, it's a tough one for him, but that's sort of the way the game goes, unfortunately - I feel for him a bit," he said.
"I'm thankful someone else's bad luck was my good luck.
"We definitely had a few things go our way, but she still had to do it.
"Thankfully we could hold the leader's back after chasing for a bit and then she was still sharp enough up the lane to pick them up."
Lee, who had driven Im Ready Jet 12 times previously for five wins, not for the first time declared the mare as the best trotter he has had the privilege to drive and believed she had matured plenty in the 10 months since he last drove her.
"I haven't driven her for a little while, but I have always said she is probably the best trotter I have ever driven and I have driven some nice ones. No superstars, but she was superior to any I've driven for sheer speed," he said.
"She's got the speed of a pacer and a couple of times when she came from out the back when I was driving her, she would rip off a 27 quarter and come from three or four back and still pick them up.
"Sometimes in your own age, it can be just as hard as the open level. Obviously tonight (Saturday) she gets her right trip and gets the luck. If five or six others had got the same run they would have won too.
"She's had to do a bit work in her own age (races) of late without a lot of luck. Getting back to the fence and getting the right trip she's done the job.
"In saying that, Pat (Driscoll) and Anton (Golino) are really good in getting the longevity out of their horses as well.
"They probably never have her fully wound down too often, so it can be hard if the others are ready to go in those good races and if you have to do a fair bit of work it can be hard to pick them up.
"But it was a great training effort, they had her cherry ripe tonight."
In winning, Im Ready Jet recorded a personal best 1:55.4 mile rate.
The win continued a great recent affinity for the Ecklin South-based Lee with the Bendigo Harness Racing Club's biggest night of the year.
He tasted Bendigo Pacing Cup success in 2020 with Code Bailey and last year piloted the Emma Stewart-trained Struve to a metro-class win.
Arriving in Bendigo with six-straight Menangle wins alongside her name, highly touted visitor Aldebaran Revani finished seventh, her chances ruined when she broke soon after the start.
The Muckleford-trained Sundons Courage also broke early in the race and finished ninth.
Im Ready Jet's three previous Group 1 wins came in the Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Fillies Final in 2019, the Need for Speed Princess Final in 2020 and Breeders Crown Three-Year-Old Fillies final in 2020.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.