The Inter Dominion has a rich history of fairytale stories and Plymouth Chubb has the makings of being that horse in Brisbane.
The former champion juvenile, who has been sidelined with two significant injury setbacks, delivered one of the biggest upsets and most exciting wins of opening night at Albion Park last Friday.
It reminded us all that Peter Manning is one of the best horsemen in the country.
Manning and his wife, Barb, were buzzing with excitement after Plymouth Chubb’s win, but their daughter Kerryn, was watching with bad phone reception on her way home from Ballarat trots.
Kerryn is still recovering from several breaks in a wrist, but hopeful of returning in time for the Grand Final.
“It’s certainly dragged on,” she said. “The latest doctor I saw wanted a CT scan to make sure it had healed. I’ve had that done and will get the results back Monday (today).
“It feels good. I’m pretty confident I’ll be right for the final and I’ll focus on that.”
NSW young gun Cam Hart made the most of the pick-up drive last Friday and was thrilled with Plymouth Chubb’s performance.
“It wasn’t just how easily he did it at the finish, but the fact he was knocked over on the home turn and barely skipped a beat,” Hart said. “Most trotters would’ve galloped, but he took one stride and then got straight back into it again. It was some sort of win.”
Plymouth Chubb firmed from as much as $31 into $5.50 third favourite to win Saturday week’s Grand Final.
It was a triumphant and somewhat emotional return to Albion Park for Peter Manning, who was once a regular visitor in his former life as “king of the kids” with so many outstanding young pacers.
“It’s got to be 10-15 years since I’ve been here (Albion Park), but I used to come all the time for races like the Kevin and Kay Seymour Classic and the Australian Gold finals when they ran them here,” Manning said.
“I reckon the last time I came, I had about eight horses up with me.”
Manning won the 2010 Australian Gold 2YO fillies final at Albion Park with Leilani Lombo.
Plymouth Chubb is somewhat of a hybrid of what Manning’s training career has been … an outstanding young but seriously talented trotter.
Along with his decades as the “king of the kids”, Manning is actually best known for his deeds with former champion trotter Knight Pistol.
Way before Just Believe went to Sweden this year, Manning – along with Kerryn – took Knight Pistol for an extended Scandinavian campaign in 1997.
Despite travelling awfully, Knight Pistol rebounded so well to win the Group 1 Harley Davidson Trot in Norway.
And Kerryn Manning added another milestone to her career by becoming just the second female to drive a Group 1 winner in Europe.
Knight Pistol will always be the Manning family’s benchmark for trotters, but Peter did speak of Plymouth Chubb in the same breath after last Friday night’s sparkling win.
“Well, there’s Knight Pistol as the best trotter I’ve had and now this bloke,” he said. “They’re totally different. I got Knight Pistol quite late in his career, while I picked-up Plymouth Chubb from Alabar when he was a yearling.”
Plymouth Chubb was beaten on debut and then won his only other 14 starts as a juvenile, dominating all the major races.
“We found he’d split a pastern (bone) after the Vicbred win (as a two-year-old) and it took a long time to get him fit again after that,” Manning said.
“Just when we had him back and firing, they found he’d frayed around the edge of the pastern and needed another four months out.
“Look at him, he carries plenty of weight at the best of times and it’s been a challenge to get fit in time for this series.
“It’s a balance between getting the work into him, but not going over the top. At least we know he should just keep getting fitter through the series.”
Plymouth Chubb, who is still just a four-year-old, “claimed” one of the series’ big guns in Queen Elida on night one and gets a crack at the other, Just Believe, tomorrow night.
The draws are in his favour, too. Plymouth Chubb has gate two and a chance to find the lead, while Just Believe is drawn awkwardly inside the back row.
Knight Pistol, who won 55 races, ran third behind superstars Pride Of Petite and Wagon Apollo in the 1997 Adelaide Inter Dominion.
Maybe Plymouth Chubb can match that or even a tad better in Brisbane over the next 12 days.
The opinions expressed in The Forum are those of the author and may not be attributed to or represent policies of Harness Racing Victoria, which is the state authority and owner of thetrots.com.au.