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Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing

Lightly-raced three-year-old filly Little Darling overcame a problem at the start before producing a spectacular late burst from the rear to score an exciting victory in the 2130m Elan Energy Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Busselton trainer Barry Howlett, who races Little Darling in partnership with his wife Lynley and their son Jimmy, admitted that he had given up hope when the filly was in eleventh position 400m from the finish.

“I was a bit worried when she was so far back,” he said as he revealed how an early misadventure had seriously threatened her winning prospects.

“Chris (driver Chris Lewis) said that just before the mobile barrier had sent the field of 12 on its way Little Darling had shied at something on the mobile. Chris then had to pull back after the filly had lost her momentum.”

Make Your Mark ($15) was setting the pace from Beyond The Sea ($5) and Elsamay ($31), with Little Darling, the $2.10 favourite, settling down in tenth place.

Little Darling was shuffled back to 11TH at the 400m before Lewis switched the filly out five wide, and she produced an explosive burst which took her to the front at the 50m mark on her way to winning by almost a length from Elsamay, who had taken a narrow lead at the 100m.

“Little Darling is still very immature and has still has a lot of development in her,” said Howlett. “Chris has a big opinion of her, and we will give her a little break soon and then have a look at some of the feature races, like the Westbred.”

The Howlett family bred Little Darling (who is bigger than her name might suggest). She is by Art Major and is the first foal out of the Bettors Delight mare Fay Darling, who was purchased by Howlett from prominent New Zealand trainer-reinsman Brent Mangos.

“Fay Darling, who had an operation on her joints as a foal, had a lot of ability and she won five races for us (from 22 starts),” said Howlett.

Fay Darling’s dam Molly Darling was a brilliant mare, who amassed $509,733 from 24 wins and 18 placings from 72 starts. She won the group 1 Caduceus Club Classic at Alexandra Park in June 2004, and the group 1 Nevele R Classic at Addington in May 2005 before finishing third behind Innocent Eyes at her Australian debut in the Victoria Oaks at Moonee Valley in July 2005.

After winning the group 3 Ladyship Cup at Moonee Valley in May 2006 Molly Darling won six races in America in 2007 and then returned to race in Australia.