ECHUCA trainers Gwenda and Mick Johnstone could be looking at back-to-back wins in the Murray Mallee sprint series in today’s meeting at Echuca Racing Club.
They had a win in last year’s final with Pravro and will have another runner in this year’s sprint.
But Mick conceded the 2017 field is much stronger than the one Pravro accounted for in 2016.
Their horse Lika Shadow has drawn barrier one for the feature race — the $35,000 Border Inn Murray Mallee Winter Sprint Final BM78 over 1170m.
It is race eight on the card and superstar trainers Darren Weir (three starters) and the powerful Hayes/Dabernig stable saddling up Light ‘n’ Fire and Valliano will be the ones to watch.
‘‘Lika Shadow’s got the same ability as Pravro to win it but she’ll need to win against a quality field,’’ Johnstone said.
‘‘She’s drawn a good barrier and will want to get middle of the field and then look to get out into some clear space to finish off.
‘‘The Murray Mallee final is ranked very highly for trainers from Swan Hill and Echuca, who combined have runners in it.’’
Locally trained Storm Approach would also be contesting the big one as the sole runner for veteran Echuca trainer Jim Lake.
The Johnstone stable also has New Kintaro (race three) and Kirbaz (race six) running today and Johnstone expected both to be chances.
‘‘They’ve been working well,’’ he said. ‘‘Kintaro will be fresh (after a 20-week spell) and Kirbaz went around last week at Wodonga and needed the run over 1600m.’’
The Archard stables have already trained two winners this month, both of which will be running here today.
Make Mine Brandy is coming off a win at Wodonga a week ago and will have a start in the ninth, following the Murray Mallee final, over 1170m.
‘‘She will be backing it up for a third Monday in a row,’’ Rhys Archard said.
‘‘She’s going around track when it’s wet which is her go and she’s drawn well hope so hopefully she’ll run well again.
‘‘It can be hard to back it up, but she doesn’t do a lot off the track and race day is when she does most her work.’’
Undercover Poet will contest race seven, a BM58 over 2100m, and has shown a liking for the longer distance after finishing first in his last start at Warracknabeal in the same class over 2000m.
‘‘I can imagine if he is in the same form as his last start he’ll be pretty competitive,’’ Archard said.
‘‘There is a good money race on offer tomorrow which means your so-called better trainers will bring up a few horses which make it a bit harder, but we’ll see how we go."
Both have drawn barrier five for their races but again will be facing tough fields as the meetings here continue to attract high profile trainers who value the quality of the Echuca track at this time of the year.
There will also be a good showing of local business owners for the annual publican’s and club’s day today which will have North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell as a special guest speaker.