AS EXPECTED Victorian freshmen dominated tonight’s New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge semi-finals at Tabcorp Park Menangle.
Short-priced favourites in their qualifiers, Be Happy Mach and Jilliby Nitro completed impressive wins to set up an enthralling Final.
The $125,000 decider is scheduled to be conducted in Menangle on June 30.
Be Happy Mach issued an ominous warning early when he registered a strong victory for trainer Emma Stewart.
Driven by Luke McCarthy, the son of Mach Three was pushed forward to settle in the ‘death seat’ from barrier eight as Crunch Time raced clear of the pack after finding the lead from gate 10.
With the front runner opening a 15-metre gap around the home bend, Be Happy Mach was forced to dig deep on his way to a metre-and-a-half win from Rockin With Elvis, with Major Lester a head away third.
“That was a very nice run from him,” Stewart said. “The leader got away from them down the back but he just knuckled down to it and kept coming.
“I was very impressed with the way he chased and got to the line strongly.”
Boasting five wins and a third from six starts, Be Happy Mach covered the mile in 1:52.7 to lead home an Australian Pacing Gold trifecta.
Also an APG Sales graduate, Jilliby Nitro stopped the clock in 1:52.3 when he was untouched to score by 15 metres from Rock Fisherman, with Spy Major five metres away third.
Trained by Marg Lee and driven by her nephew Glen Craven, Jilliby Nitro extended his record to six wins and a second from seven starts for earnings of $244,095.
“I’m very happy with the way he went,” Lee said. “Once he got to the front he was always going to be hard to beat and he did it quite easily.
“It’s going to be tougher in the Final but hopefully he will draw well which will make him hard to beat.”