WHEN Austin Mifsud guided his horse into the home straight at Morgan Park, the atmosphere was second to none.
He was driving Victorian trotter, Its Elvis NZ, in the Victor Habor Harness Racing Club's Aldebaran Park Stud Trotters Cup, pulling away with a near five-metre margin to win.
Austin was unsure whether the crowd was behind his horse for its name, or because the short price favourite Kitsilano hung out on the top turn breaking into a gallop and losing more than 20 metres before charging home.
Given the starting price there were some handsome winners on Its Elvis.
“I loved the atmosphere and the racetrack was very nice. All the people were great, they just wanted the horse to win for some reason,” Austin said.
The New Zealand import, by Sundon USA and out of Pleasant Whiz (NZ), lead from the beginning of the race, favouring the standing start.
“The only real danger was Kitsilano, but she put a bit of a gallop in,” Austin said.
Austin, who drove the horse for his wife and trainer, Julie Mifsud, said the decision to travel the horse 10 hours to Adelaide was an easy one.
Its Elvis arrived in Adelaide in time for a start at Globe Derby Park on December 21, before pulling off the trotters cup victory on December 30.
He backed it up with a second-place finish at Globe Derby Park, driven by Austin’s sister Gaita Pullicino on January 6, after a five-year hiatus from racing.
The eight-year-old gelding arrived in the Mifsud’s Kilmore stables in mid 2019, from Kevin Pizzuto’s New South Wales stables.
It took some work for Austin and Julie due to the horse’s “high-strung” nature.
“He had a lot of problems. He used to play up bad at the start. It took me about three months to bring him back into line and toe,” Austin said.
But with a new trainer at the helm, Its Elvis pulled his weight.
“When he leads, he is very hard to toss. Most of the times when he won in NZ and NSW, he led a lot,” Austin said.
“I find SA are pretty good with their standing starts – (Victor Harbor) suited him very well.”
While numbers were down for the trotters cup, club president Lynton Bishop said it was great to see a Victorian runner challenge the South Australians.
“The Trotters Ranks appear to be somewhat thin at this time, but Its Elvis’ win proved trainers and drivers from interstate can come across and challenge our horses,” Lynton said.
The hot weather impacted the race day with the original start time delayed, and Lynton said it resulted in less patrons.
“But I was really pleased with how it went, we couldn’t expect much more especially given the weather,” he said.
“I’m quite proud of what everyone did. Everyone really chipped in. It was half the crowd we had this time last year, but given the weather conditions it was a fab day.”
He was hopeful the club’s next race day on Australia Day would draw a large crowd, especially with the public holiday on Monday.
“It’s a great chance for people to get away to the coast for the weekend, come to the races and spend the weekend on the Fleurieu,” Lynton said.
“The club apologises for some of the advertised children’s attractions that were cancelled because of the predicted temperatures and high winds. These should return on Australia Day.”
Race times and information for the Australia Day, January 26, races will be updated on the Victor Harbor Harness Racing Club’s Facebook page and website.
For more information visit www.vhhrc.com or find VHHRC on Facebook.