RISING Victorian trainer Paul Abela will be chasing his first Group victory when he launches a two-pronged assault on Friday night’s Group 2 Ladbrokes Richmond Derby with Aston Frankel and Aston It Is.
Aston Frankel, an August ’15 son of Fabregas and Aston Ainslie, and Aston It Is, a superbly bred January ’16 son of Turanza Bale and champion stayer Sweet It Is, are both owned by prolific South Australian owner/breeder Ray Borda.
Borda will also have a third Derby finalist in Aston Duke, a January ’16 Go Wild Teddy – Aston Elle half-brother to Melbourne Cup hero Aston Dee Bee, trained by Jason Mackay.
Aston Frankel and Aston It Is both made their Richmond debuts in last Friday’s Derby heats, where Aston Frankel was an upset $26.50 winner of the opening run-off in 30.64, his ninth win from 31 starts.
Aston It Is, the winner of nine from 18, then gave 40-year-old former builder Paul Abela a second finalist when finishing runner-up to fastest qualifier Two Times Twice in the final heat, beaten 1.75 lengths in 30.48.
“I’m pretty excited about Friday night, although it would’ve been nice if they were drawn the other way around,” Abela said.
While Aston Frankel hadn’t won in his last seven starts, dating back to December 28, his long-odds heat victory didn’t surprise Abela.
“You know what, I’ve been waiting for that run,” Abela offered.
“The dog is flying but he’s just had bad luck and things haven’t fallen into place. He ran second to Dyna Chancer at The Meadows and the margins were three by ten, and a few starts ago he ran third to Big Flood at Horsham and was only beaten a length and a half.
“He’d never been to Richmond before and I think going to a new track where everything was different could have sparked him up too.”
Aston Frankel is a $5.50 chance in Bet 365’s market on the $40,000 to-the-winner Derby after drawing box two, with blue-blooded middle distance specialist Aston It Is at $10 from box six; however Abela doesn’t necessarily agree with the assessment.
“I think Aston It Is will jump out of the ground this week and I reckon he’s my best chance,” Abela said.
“I’m dying to get him back over 600 metres. He’s only been beaten once in his life over 600 and that was when I sent him up to Brisbane for the (Group 3) Queensland Cup earlier in the year and he didn’t handle the humidity up there. He had one start up there and then I gave him a couple of weeks off.
“I’d never been to Richmond before but everyone was telling me you need a strong 600m dog there so I decided to take him up and then he came up with box one. I was really happy with his run because he stumbled out of the boxes. I thought he was home but they tell me the winner (Two Times Twice) is pretty good.”
It could be an unforgettable weekend for Abela, who’ll also have two finalists in Saturday night’s $10,000 to-the-winner Shepparton Classic in Cavatron, a March ’16 son of Dyna Tron and She’s Our Caviar, and Another What, a November ’15 son of Kinloch Brae and Dainty Banquet.
“I haven’t won a Group race yet, but Aston Dinnigan won the Gold Rush Maiden at Bendigo last year and ran fourth in the (Group 1) Maturity and Sublime News ran fourth in the (Group 2) Summer Distance Plate at Wentworth Park earlier this year,” Abela said.
“I’ve been training full-time for four years and only have 15 in work. I want quality over quantity. My secret is my parents, Christine and Len, because I’m always on the road.
“Jason Thompson has been a great help to me. I pre-trained a lot for Jason and met my owners through him.
“Now I’m getting my own owners. I’ve been training for Ray Borda for about three years. Ray paid big money for Aston It Is and another pup from the litter and he deserves all the success he gets.”
Ray Borda’s third finalist, 30.59 heat winner Aston Duke, is the $2.50 Derby favourite after drawing box one.