Geoff Simpson qualifies for his third Gold Crown final

COMING HOME: Lithgow colt Castalong Shadow posted an all the way win in the opening Gold Crown heat. Photo: ANYA WHITELAW

COMING HOME: Lithgow colt Castalong Shadow posted an all the way win in the opening Gold Crown heat. Photo: ANYA WHITELAW

WHEN it comes time for this year’s Gold Crown final, Lithgow trainer-driver Geoff Simpson will be hoping the old adage ‘third time lucky’ can be used in reference to himself.

Simpson has supported the Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s annual Gold Crown Carnival since its inception, but over the years has not been able to clinch one of the major trophies.

WINNER: Geoff Simpson.

WINNER: Geoff Simpson.

This year he has the chance to do so, having qualified a runner for the two-year-old colts and geldings Gold Crown final for just the third time in his career.

His chance in the Group 1, $100,000 final lies with his colt Castalong Shadow, a winner of the second 1,730 metres Gold Crown heat held at the Bathurst Paceway on Saturday night.

“That was pretty good, he got out of the gate good and that’s the main thing,” Simpson said.

“I’ve only ever had two finalists and the closest I got was fourth, so I hope he can go a bit better.

“It would be nice if I got a good draw [for the final].”

With three scratchings reducing the field to seven and shuffling Simpson’s son of Shadow Play in from barrier five to three, Castalong Shadow lived up to his $1.60 favouritism.

He was quick to cross and take the lead and there he stayed, surging away from his rivals in the run home to win by 8¼m over Bernie Hewitt’’s Brads Luck ($18.90)

Castalong Shadow’s 1:58.8 mile rate was the third quickest of the five heat victors, clocking splits of 30.8, 32.1, 28.0 and 28.8 seconds.

It was no surprise that the honours for quickest qualifier went to the Shane and Lauren Tritton trained Divine State, who clocked a 1:56.2.

The Australasian two-year-old record holder was the hot $1.04 favourite for his heat, his status as the one to beat further underlined by the fact that second elect Shadow Eclipse offered $27.80.

Going from barrier eight with Chris Geary in the gig, Divine State got stuck wide early as ahead of him a line of four battled for the lead.

It was Love Me Always who led them into the straight the first time, but Geary had Divine State travelling well and quickly took over at the head of the field.

Accelerating with a 27.8 third split, Divine State ran away from his rivals, race caller Craig Easey remarking “As they run off the back straight I think it’s times and margins please judges.”

He went on to win by a massive 37½m over closest rival Landofthefree ($32.60), the victory his third in as many starts.

The barrier draw for Saturday night’s Group 1 Gold Crown and Gold Tiara finals will be staged on Monday night.