Sportsbet Future Stars set for exciting finale on Thursday night

The second edition of Sportsbet Future Stars will come to a thrilling close this Thursday night (29 February) at Sportsbet-Pakenham, when the $300,000 final concludes Australia’s richest maiden series.

The $1.2 million Sportsbet Future Stars has been a weekly feature of night racing at Sportsbet-Pakenham in 2024, with 11 rich $75,000 maiden heats showcased across January and February.

Heat 12, which was scheduled for last Thursday night (22 February), was unfortunately abandoned due to lightning activity in the area.

An impressive field of up-and-coming stars will contest Thursday night’s 1400m final, headlined by eight of the 11 heat winners. A cheque of $165,000 awaits the winning connections.

Pakenham trainers Rachael Frost and Kevin Daffy will be aiming to secure the most lucrative wins of their career with heat winners Mislead and Oh Too Good respectively.

Mislead has been kept fresh for the final after taking out the eighth heat in style on 1 February and has the services of big race jockey Michael Dee.

It will make for one of the racing stories of the year if Oh Too Good can salute for Daffy. The four-year-old mare stormed home on debut in heat nine, giving Daffy his first and only winner to date.

Phillip Stokes’ three-year-old Chakado won the opening heat back in January, but the son of Toronado faces a challenge from the outside barrier. If he overcomes it jockey Daniel Stackhouse will be celebrating back-to-back Sportsbet Future Stars titles after piloting Marble Arch to victory in the inaugural edition.

Mornington-based trainer Jerome Hunter has strategically targeted the series with several of his up-and-coming three-year-olds, with Barby’s Doll breaking through on the first night, and Rewards And More in the seventh heat. The ultra-consistent Miss Cardannic – a runner-up in three heats – has also earnt her place in the final to give the stable a three-pronged attack.

Damian Lane, who is in the box-seat to take out the $50,000 Sportsbet Future Stars Jockey Contest having won three heats and amassed 29 points, will ride Barby’s Doll.

Star jockey Craig Williams (23 points) rides her well-fancied stablemate Rewards And More and victory would give him a chance of reeling in Lane to take home the major prize. 

A host of Victoria’s best jockeys have been battling it out through the series for a share of the riches with jockeys awarded points on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis to the first five placegetters in each of the heats.

Adding further spice to the contest, double points will be up for grabs in Thursday night’s final.

The Jockey Contest prize pool will be split $30,000 to the winner, $15,000 to second and $5,000 to third with the top five at the conclusion of the heats as follows:

Sportsbet Future Stars Jockey Contest Top 5

  1. Damian Lane – 29 points
  2. Craig Williams – 23 points
  3. Daniel Stackhouse – 18 points
  4. Declan Bates – 15 points
  5. Matt Cartwright & Brian Higgins – 11 points

Among the other heat winners bidding to become the second Sportsbet Future Star is the early favourite Subsix (Lloyd Kennewell & Lucy Yeomans), and Shiny New Deel (Gavin Bedggood) who both won smartly on night two of the series and will be steered by leading jockeys Blake Shinn and Mark Zahra respectively.

Local training duo Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman have qualified top weighted gelding, Rampant Lion, who will look to make it back-to-back victories at Sportsbet-Pakenham.

Rounding out the field of 12 future stars are maiden gallopers Jenni The Jet (Ciaron Maher) and the Robbie Laing-trained pair Attain and Thoughtful Woman who will be out to improve on their second placings in the heats.

The connections of Thursday night’s finalists will be hoping their horses can follow in the hoofprints of Marble Arch, El Soleado, Eternal Flame, Big Watch, Gringotts, Moya Lass, Bel Air, Helix and Von Hauke among others who have graduated from the inaugural 2023 series to be competitive at metropolitan level.

In a twist of fate, the Anthony and Sam Freedman-trained Bel Air is the early favourite for Thursday night’s co-feature, the $175,000 VOBIS Gold Bullion (1400m) which also offers a $30,000 VOBIS Silver bonus.

The Sportsbet Future Stars Final is Race 7 at 8.45pm (AEDT) this Thursday at Sportsbet-Pakenham and will be broadcast live on and RSN. The first of eight races will be run at 5.45pm.