THE Strathfieldsaye speed machine Ozzie Battler has flown into the Group 2 Mercury80 Final (1200m), to be run on A.G. Hunter Cup night, after running his rivals ragged in Friday night's second heat at Tabcorp Park Melton.
Trained by Julie Douglas and driven by Glenn Douglas, the five-year-old pacing gelding celebrated his 100th career start in style by notching his 11th win.
The son of Sunshine Beach and the mare Miss Laura Jane was quick to find the front and his win over the short-course distance never looked in doubt, with the gelding exerting his authority in the straight and cruising to a 7.7m triumph over Jean Luc (Lance Justice), with Jilliby Bandit (Margaret and Jason Lee) in third.
Fourth in the race was the Charlton-trained Cee Cee In America.
After being beaten by 19m by his stable-mate Bernie Winkle last Saturday night at Bendigo, despite leading the field approaching the home straight, Glenn Douglas felt the sharp 1200m trip at Melton was just the freshen up Ozzie Battler had needed to reinvigorate his fortunes.
"This is a race we have been planning for him for a while," he told Trots Vision post-race.
"He is the type of horse who gets to the top of the straight, he's still in front and he switches off a lot of times, whereas tonight (Friday) he still thought he had another lap to go before he had to pull up.
"You have to change things up on these older horses - although he is not that old, but in (race) starts he is quite old.
"A race like this could turn him around and switch him on a little bit.
"Normally we try to send them to Sydney to have that happen, but he could be the type of horse that this might switch him back on."
The win broke a long drought for Ozzie Batter, whose last win was 23 starts ago at Swan Hill last July.
It boosted his overall race record to 11 wins and 40 placings for earnings of $174,970.
The only slight hiccup on Friday night, according to Douglas, occurred at the start of the race.
"Just before the gate let go he ducked under it - he probably missed it by probably half a length," he said.
"He made hard work of what should have been easy."
The first heat of the Mercury80 was run and won by the Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars-trained five-year-old La Puddie at Melton the previous Friday on January 7.
Second in the race and certain to be a factor in the $50,000 final on February 5 was the Shaun McNaulty-trained Hashtag.
Ozzie Battler delivered the Douglas stable its 12th winner of the new season in only 14 days.
His brilliant gate speed should again hold him in good stead for the final.
Meanwhile, the final two races on Friday night's 10-race program were cancelled following concerns over storm activity in the area and an earlier lighting failure.
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