Trainer Julie Hodder’s hard work with the talented but difficult mare La Dolce Vita is starting to pay off and she hopes the five-year-old can take another step towards redemption at Grafton on Wednesday.
La Dolce Vita, once regarded as one of Queensland’s most promising fillies when trained at Deagon by Brad Smith, ended a two-year losing sequence when she returned to form in last week’s Jacca Prelude (1106m) at Grafton.
She showed all her old dash to lead all the way in the Prelude, and Hodder is looking for another bold showing in Wednesday’s Herb Blanchard Haulage Jacaranda Cup (1100m).
Her Prelude win was La Dolce Vita’s first success since September 6, 2015 when completed a winning hat-trick at the beginning of her career with a Sunshine Coast victory. She had previously won her first two starts in easy fashion at the Gold Coast and Ipswich.
She then underlined her potential by finishing second in two Listed races at Doomben later in 2015, beaten by Secret Saga in the $100,000 Mode Plate (1200m) then finishing runner-up to Sold For Song in the $100,000 Gold Edition Plate (1200m).
But her form tapered off after that for various reasons and this year she joined Hodder’s Grafton stable. In four runs for Hodder since September, La Dolce Vita finished in the placings in two runs at the Gold Coast before her last-start Grafton win.
“She had an unbelievable amount of ability earlier on when she was in Brisbane, but she’s had a few issues to overcome and her form just tapered off after that,” Hodder said.
La Dolce Vita has had a series of niggling problems, including feet issues and also had to overcome a virus. But one of her main problems has always been her attitude.
“Training her isn’t a walk in the park. She’s a naughty girl and has an attitude problem - she’s had a few warnings placed on her in the past for her behaviour on racedays,” Hodder said.
La Dolce Vita ha d one run for Gold Coast trainer Toby Edmonds when she resumed earlier this year, finishing last at Doomben in July. He thought she had lost interest in racing and recommended the owners consider retiring her.
“I know one of her owners and he contacted me to see if I would take her on. I said I would as long as we got her thoroughly checked out first, which we did,” Hodder said.
“She had a few issues, including her feet. We’ve got that sorted out and now she realises it isn’t hurting anymore when she races.
“We’ve worked hard to get her back and it was such a relief to see her bounce back at Grafton the other day. Hopefully, she keeps on improving from here.”
La Dolce Vita on Wednesday will be ridden again by the trainer’s daughter, Belinda, who piloted her last start.
“Nothing was going to catch her last week and we’ll adopt the same plan again – straight to the front,” she said. “And we’ve had some rain about here at Grafton which will also suit her because she’s very capable on rain-affected ground.”
The track at Grafton on Monday was rated a soft 5.
Fellow Grafton trainer John Shelton has turned to 3kg-claiming apprentice Olivia Pickering to help topweight Lucky Meteor defend his unblemished track and distance record in the Jacaranda Cup.
A four-time winner at Grafton, including a perfect winning record from his three runs over the 1110m at the track, Lucky Meteor has been allotted the topweight of 63kg and will get much-needed weight relief with the apprentice’s allowance.
The seven-year-old has been a great performer for Shelton, winning 11 races at six different tracks - Grafton (four wins), Ballina (two wins), Doomben (two wins) and sole wins at the Sunshine Coast, Bowraville and Coffs Harbour.
Lucky Meteor's most recent win was five starts back in the Ballina Sprint (1005m) on July 28 but he hasn't been far away in recent runs in Queensland, including his last-start third behind the in-form Tarzan (a subsequent Doomben winner last Saturday) in a $60,000 Open Hcp (1000m) at the Sunshine Coast on October 29.
Former Victorian sprinter Devil’s Pinch, now with Armidale trainer Paul Grills, also looms as a leading contender following his last-start second to La Dolce Vita in the Jacca Prelude.