Champion trainer Chris Lang thinks he has found his next superstar in his second-coming in harness racing.
Lang trained megastar trotters like Sundons Gift, Skyvalley and National Interest before shocking the industry with what turned out to be a three-year hiatus.
The first Lang bought when he returned to the game, Ollivici, is potentially one of the best he’s had.
“He could be the next of the really good ones I’ve had,” he said.
“I’ve got no doubt he’s top class. I don’t think he’s going to dominate races, but be more of an opportunist with that incredible high speed he has.
“I got back into it (training) three years ago and this guy is the first horse I bought.
“I loved him when I saw him in Christchurch, he was impossible to fault and really well-bred, so I paid $NZ51,000 for him and would’ve gone higher if I needed to.
“It’s just taken three years to get to this point, but that happens when you buy yearlings, especially trotters.”
Lang loved Ollivici from day one, but excitement turned to heartbreak when, as a two-year-old, the trotter crashed through a fence and badly damaged a back leg.
“It was devastating at the time thinking it could’ve been a career-threatening injury and knowing the talent he had,” Lang recalled.
“But some great veterinary help and lots of a time and here we are.
“He didn’t race at two because of the injury and still wasn’t right last year despite the potential he showed. I’d say it’s only now he’s finally fully sound … hopefully this is the start of a very exciting ride for us all.”
Ollivici has strolled home to win both runs back from a spell and is a commanding favourite to complete the hat-trick from barrier one in Saturday night’s Group 2 Winter Trotters’ Cup at Bendigo.
Despite Ollivici being a veteran of just 13 starts (for six wins and three seconds), Lang said the lure of a home state Inter Dominion in November/December was irresistible.
“That’s the aim because it’s own our backyard,” he said.
“It won’t be easy such a lightly-raced horse, but he has the talent and he will almost be a five-year-old by then.”
Ollivici’s part-owner Fred Crews knows all about the Inter Dominion, having won it last year with his star veteran Maori Law.
The reigning Inter Dominion champion Maori Law adds to a huge Saturday night for Crews when he continues his build-up towards a title defence in the Group 3 Wagon Apollo Trotters’ free-for-all (2150m).
The rising 10-year-old did everything bar win first-up from a long break when a massive second at Ballarat two weeks ago.
It was Maori Law’s first run for almost seven months and only his second run since winning the NSW Inter Dominion final at Menangle on December 11 last year.
“To get so close first-up when he know how much he needed the run was great,” owner Fred Crews said.
“He’ll be fitter this week, but he’s an old horse and we know it’ll be four or five runs in when he’s right back to his very best.
“Everything is built around Emmett and Richard (Brosnan, co-trainers) priming him for the Inter Dominion, just as they did so well last year.”
* Adam Hamilton is a paid contributor writing on harness racing for News Corp
Originally published as Harness racing: Chris Lang anoints Ollivici his next superstar in new training chapter