TRAINER Marg Lee and driver Glen Craven are bound for the $750,000 Inter Dominion grand final with top pacer Keayang Cullen.
The six-year-old gelding booked his spot in the Melbourne Cup of harness racing with victory in a 2240-metre heat at Melton on Saturday night.
A fast finish down the outside allowed him to chase down pacesetter Restrepo and score by a neck in a track record mile rate of 1.53.2 for a 2240-race.
The win gives Keayang Cullen back-to-back shots at Inter Dominion glory. He placed 11th behind Im Themightyquinn last year.
The final, over 3009 metres, is at Menangle Park in New South Wales on March 2, giving connections a fortnight to prepare for a second tilt.
Lee said she was pleased with how the Christian Cullen-Inasafeplace champion had fared starting on the inside off the second row.
“We had a good run in behind him. It helps a lot when you get a bit of luck. It was a patient drive. Glen drove him really good,” she said.
“We were hoping to qualify last night, finishing in the first three gets you through. We were drawn to follow Restrepo which was an ideal draw.
“If he held the lead we were going to follow him the whole way. It panned out perfectly.”
Restrepo and third-placed outsider Wartime Sweetheart will also contest the grand final, as will wildcard entry Caribbean Blaster which ran fourth.
Lee said Keayang Cullen had a better chance to claim the Inter Dominion grand final than 12 months ago
“He’s a lot stronger and handling his work a lot better. He’s definitely filled out,” she said.
Lee said she was unsure of where, and if, she would run the gelding in the lead-up to the race.
“Depending on whether we qualified, we were looking at the Terang Cup but we’ll have to re-look at things now after qualifying last night,” she said.
“It also depends on how long we have to be up there at the track. They haven’t told us how long we have to be there before the race.
“The ones up there certainly have an advantage. We’ve got a long trip but he seems to handle that and he’s had last year’s experience.”