May 18, 2020 Michael Court
FRESH from a haul of five winners at Tamworth yesterday afternoon, Blake Hughes is ready for another ‘battle royale’ at Newcastle this afternoon.
Hughes and Tom Ison have been having some great tussles in recent weeks and Ison will be out for revenge today after he landed just the solitary winner at Tamworth.
If there has been one real positive to come out of the regionalisation of harness racing in recent weeks, it has been the development of these two outstanding young reinsmen . . . and it will be on show again at Newcastle this afternoon.
Hughes and Ison have improved in leaps and bounds while the pair have been restricted to driving at just two tracks, Newcastle and Tamworth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the pair are ready to lock horns again at the Hunter Valley’s premier track, Newcastle, today with anything up to seven of the eight favourites split between this in-form pair.
Ison has been in superb form for the Roy Roots junior stable in recent weeks and gets the chance to strike the first few blows when he takes the steer behind the first two favourites at Newcastle, One Reason ($2) in Race 1 and Shes Our Sapphire ($2.25) in Race 2.
Roots gives a lot of the credit for his stable’s stunning form in recent weeks to the form of Ison, who he claims has all the earmarks of a future champion – patience and a cool head when it’s required.
Hughes may be their main danger though, as he will drive unraced youngster Skyfall John John, having his first race start for the Clayton Harmey stable after two qualifying trials at Newcastle to ready him for this first-up assignment.
Ison is likely to drive Shes Our Sapphire ($2.25) over stablemate Rocknroll Tony ($6) in Race 2 and although yet to register a win in four career starts, Shes Our Sapphire was a handy second to Mylightning Fella at Newcastle last month after finishing well from back in the field.
Blake may be playing catch-up later in the day, but his strong book of drives should see him winning Race 5 with odds-on favourite Ashleys Blue Chip, perfectly-drawn in gate two and looking to back up from her easy win at this track on Friday night for the Clayton Harmey stable.
Hughes then takes on Ison in a great head-to-head duel when he partners $2.75 favourite Max Power for Harmey up against Ison and Roots’ hope, Watching You Dream ($5.50) in Race 6.
Finally, the day ends on a high note when the classy Pitch Perfect ($1.20) takes on a strong field, including three stablemates, in the final race, which will see Hughes hoping for an upset when he partners Our Sequel ($21) for the Harmey stable.