Maitland trainer-driver Jess Dart will chase a first final of any kind when last-start winner Heavenly Flare contests heat one of the Glenn Tomlin Memorial on Friday night at Newcastle Paceway.
The top six from two heats progress to the July 21 $8000 final. The annual series, or race, is held in honour of Tomlin, a promising driver who died in a trackwork accident in 1997.
The series is restricted to pacers prepared locally by trainers with less than six winners this season. Horses must also have been with that trainer for the past 90 days, up from 28 in previous years, to be eligible.
Dart and her mother, Vicki, have two horses in work and she was glad one was ready for the Tomlin.
“I didn’t know Glenn but Mum did and drove against him,” Dart said. “I know [Glenn’s parents] Pam and Bill really well and it’s a good race to go in just to support them.”
Heavenly Flare won last start at Tamworth on July 5 and will likely start from gate six on Friday night.
“It’s a bit of a step up for him compared to where he’s been racing,” said Dart, who is the daughter of long-time Newcastle Paceway judge Andrew Dart. “He’s only had 11 starts and he’s improving every run.
“I was over the moon when he won last start at Tamworth, but tomorrow night he’s got nothing to prove to Mum and I. We’d be happy just to get a bit of place money.
“If he makes the final, it will be a first final for me and him and it will be a step up for both of us.”
Mitch Chapple-trained Derringer looks the one to beat in heat one after a string of recent placings. Peter Hedges’ I’m Major Harry will be among the favourites in heat two.