CAMPERDOWN’S Gary Lawlor says it is a thrill to be involved in Australasian harness racing’s holy grail.
The local trainer will sulky up Bad Billy for the 2018 Inter Dominion Pacing Championships starting this Saturday night at Melton, with two other heat races to be held at Ballarat and Cranbourne on December 4 and 8.
Horses earn points for their performances across the three heat races in a bid to book a spot in the $500,000 final back at Melton on December 15.
A trotters series will also be held alongside the pacers events, with heats and $150,000 final held on the same dates.
Lawlor, who co-trains Bad Billy with his son Darryl, said he was “thrilled” to enter the Inter Dominion for the first time.
“I’m only a hobby trainer, so this is the first time,” he said.
“The Inter Dominion is equal to the Melbourne Cup in harness racing, so it’s a big thrill.
“We’re just thrilled to be in, it’s for the best horses in Australia and New Zealand.
“There’s 36 runners (in the series), so to have one of the best 36 horses (in Australia and New Zealand) is a pretty big buzz.”
Bad Billy is entered in the opening heat at Melton over 2240 metres, with the race starting at 8.03pm.
Lawlor said his horse should be a good chance of booking a spot in the final, with each race increasing in distance.
“He’ll love the four races, particularly the ones over bigger distance,” he said.
“The last heat and the final are both over 2600 and 2700 metres, so that’ll suit him.”
Ecklin’s Jason Lee will take the drive on Bad Billy, with the pair sharing a strong association.
Lee has been the driver for 40 of Bad Billy’s 60 starts and was on board for his victory at the Hamilton Cup in January.
“He’s won 14 races on him, so he’s been with him more or less during most of his career,” Lawlor said.
“He won on him in the Hamilton Cup earlier this year.”
Bad Billy enters the series in good form, but will face stiff competition throughout the heats from the likes of Shadow Sax and San Carlo.
However, Lawlor is taking heart from his horse’s recent performances in which he placed alongside Shadow Sax and San Carlo, with the pair considered to be among the favourites to win the final.
Emma Stewart trains Shadow Sax, with the former Derrinallum local chasing her first Inter Dominion crown.
Shadow Sax will run in the second heat at 8.33pm along with San Carlo and Cant Refuse, who is trained and driven by Terang’s Matthew Craven.
“He ran second at Swan Hill and third at Melton to Shadow Sax and San Carlo,” Lawlor said.
“To run second and third to those horses is a pretty good effort.”
Lawlor said a number of family and friends would be trackside at Melton for the opening heat on Saturday night.