Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Pacers 2001/2002 Season
Leg 8:  Metro Tasmanian Pacing Championship 2001/2002Results   Points
            30/12/2001  Hobart, Tas  2750m  Standing Start  $100,000
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Since the Tasmanian Championship was switched to a mobile start in 1990, this sole Grand Circuit race in the Apple Isle has been dominated by visiting horses from the mainland. The one exception was Karalta Jet in 1993 for leading horseman Barrie Rattray. The Tasmanian Pacing Club was now switching this forthcoming championship back to a standing start handicap.

Even in the old days of handicap racing, the few mainland pacers to venture across Bass Strait won more than their share of Tasmania’s biggest race. There was Koala Lawn for Kevin Newman in 1960, followed the next season by Tacloban, driven by a young Vic Frost for his father George. After the victory of Stormy Bruce in 1965 came 25 years when few Victorian or Sydney pacers made the journey south. It was an era when Tasmania did have some truly outstanding performers, with the race being claimed in this period by such well remembered names as Halwes, Chamfer’s Star, Golden Alley, Joseph Scott, Paleface Tiki, Fair Clues and Paleface Lindy etc.

The Tasmanian-bred Thorate, trained in NSW by Brian Hancock, returned to win the event the first time it was conducted from a mobile start. After the victory of Karalta Jet in 1993, the trophy each year has been claimed by a visitor, despite the efforts of the best pacers in this small state to make the most of their front row draws around the smallish Hobart Showgrounds circuit.

If Tasmanian breeders in the past decade have been unable to come within cooee of  producing another Halwes or Golden Alley, it has not been for the want of trying. Having a starter in this Group 1 event remains high on the goals set by all Tassie owners. Having one actually win the race, is a dream chased by breeders, owners and all successful stables in that state.

For years the Danbury Park Cup has been held at Launceston’s excellent Mowbray track in June. This past year the club moved it back to late November to provide the state’s best pacers with a race that would bring to the fore possible hopefuls of making the field for the Tassie Pacing Cup. Doug Martin, one of Tasmania’s most famous harness racing names who sixty years before was associated with the great Logan Derby (first Inter Dominion Champion), has been the driving force since having the club name this race after a property that once was the site of an old trotting track. He also ensures there are various trophies for the Danbury Park Cup meeting.

Among the starters in this handicap was Mountain Glory, a six-year-old son of Cognac Hanover USA that had been enjoying much success in Tasmania and NSW when previously campaigned by the state’s leading trainer-driver Barrie Rattray. Placed off the back-mark of 30 metres in this latest Dunbury Park Cup, Mountain Glory was now trained and driven by its owner, Rob Monks. Not a noted horseman, this was the only horse driven in races by Monks.

Launceston punters warmed to the local fancy, despite its back-mark. Unfortunately, the favourite was caught up in a traffic jam mid-race and finished second last behind Butler Billy NZ, Rebecca’s Bow and Saint Peters Pass. Stewards were not impressed with the driving tactics, banning Monks from driving his horse for the next three months.

Chief steward Wayne Kirby pointed out the specifics of the charge, stating: “Monks took Mountain Glory to the rail and put the horse in a position where he would rely on luck. He made no attempt to ease back so he could get out and go around others. He missed an opportunity at the bell to get a trail one-out one-back.” Kirby added that the penalty took into account a previous one week suspension incurred by this driver over his handling of the same horse.

The next open class event to attract Tasmanian Cup hopefuls was the Hotline Cup Prelude One in Hobart on December 9. Also a standing start handicap, Mountain Glory this time was on the back-mark of 45 metres, with the promising Rattray-trained Prodigious off 30m, and the former Victorian veteran Greek Gambit on 25m. The latter’s form had become so disappointing since moving to that state that it was sent out a 16/1 chance, with Prodigious starting a 5/2 favourite, and Mountain Glory (to be driven by Christian Salter) second favourite at 5/1. Punters were right on target when Rattray brought Prodigious home at the head of affairs to win over Cellular Fella NZ and Pedestal Boy, with Mountain Glory fourth.

Prelude Two was held on the same day, with Rebecca’s Bow (4/1) winning from the two co-back-markers -- Javad (4/1) and Vancouver Mac (7/1). The latter was also from the Rattray stables. Harry McCool NZ, the even-money favourite came in fourth. On face value, only one or maybe two to have raced in Prelude Two seemed to have much chance of making it into the Tasmanian Championship, especially if several horses turned up from interstate to claim the first few spots.

When the NSW Harness Racing Club that week extended nominations for the forthcoming Inter Dominion, among the late entries lodged was Barrie Rattray including the latest star to emerge from his team – Prodigious. This prompted a claim by Hobart writer David Lonergan that to even be worth taking Prodigious to Sydney, it would have to win the state’s major sprint, the Golden Mile at Mowbray on December 16. Lonergan did point out the horse’s wins at its past two starts had been ‘quite sensational’. It was generally expected the pacer would win the sprint that Mountain Glory had captured the previous season when still in the Rattray stable.

Prodigious did turn in a fine showing, but not good enough to catch the all-the-way leader Mountain Glory, now driven by Paul Hill. Its many Launceston fans made sure it had also started favourite in winning the $25,000 sprint from Prodigious by three metres. The sectional times of 28.4, 30.9, 28.5 and 28.3 returned an overall time of 1:55.9 around Tasmania’s best track. It was the 24th win from 55 starts for Mountain Glory, for earnings of $195,000.

After that sprint, owner-trainer Rob Monks stated he would not start his horse again before the Tasmanian Championship, fearing the handicapper would place the horse off impossible back-marks. In the previous Tasmanian Championship, Mountain Glory had finished second to Shakamaker from a mobile start. “If Shakamaker comes down for this championship now off handicaps, they won’t give him any more than the maximum of 25 metres, so I expect my horse to be given about 20 metres in the big race.”

That Monks rated his pacer within five metres of Shakamaker was interesting to say the least! With Mountain Glory bypassing the $25,000 Hobart Pacing Cup a week before the Group 1 race, Prodigious was untroubled to win from its back-mark of 30 metres, just failing to break two minutes on the showgrounds’ track with its small straights.

Prodigious, by Ticket To Heaven USA from Just The Trick, was bred by the Rattray family near Launceston. The head of this well known family was former leading trainer Wayne, father of Barrie. Wayne in his early days had been a star footballer and champion tennis player. He had gone on to become a highly successful trainer, always keen to dabble in breeding and buying a yearling or two from the mainland sales.

A positive swab taken from one of his horses in the 1980s led to Wayne’s  disqualification. Son Barrie, who had earlier moved to train in Victoria on his own, was quick to answer the SOS sent out by his parents. The son returned home to take over the family stables with his father retiring and moving to live on the coast north-east of Launceston. Barrie Rattray was also a gifted horseman, and soon began dominating the training and driving premierships in that state, and representing Australia at a World Driving Championship in Europe. 

When acceptances were taken for the ‘new-look’ championship under handicap conditions, there was no Shakamaker, Courage Under Fire NZ or Safe And Sound. In fact, none of the current crop of Grand Circuit horses would be making the trip to Hobart to contest a standing start handicap. However, there were two well performed mainland performers in Living Angel and Johnny Wizzard, while Go Charles NZ and Franco Conquest NZ had been more than useful performers the previous season.

However, in the eyes of the Handicapper, none of these visitors were as good as Mountain Glory. The Tasmanian six-year-old was made the sole back-marker off 15 metres. The only others handicapped were Prodigious, Living Angel, Go Charles NZ and Franco Conquest NZ – all off 10 metres.

The visiting Johnny Wizzard was a most interesting performer. It had worked its way through the classes for Melton trainer Phillip Chircop and was recently sold for $100,000 to New Zealand trainer Tim Butt on behalf of a syndicate comprising members from Australia and New Zealand. Chircop said the horse had been flying at the time of the sale. “If he steps from a standing start, then it should be all over bar the shouting. The query is the standing start.” Butt’s brother Anthony was making the trip to pilot Johnny Wizzard. The horse had travelled to Tasmania by sea, along with Living Angel and Go Charles NZ.

Living Angel was a daughter of Walton Hanover USA and was as tough as they came. It had gone through the classes providing numerous wins for reinswoman Kerryn Gath. On this visit to Hobart, Kerryn would drive Go Charles NZ for her husband Andy, while her friend Natalie Westendorf would do the steering behind Living Angel.

Tasmanians are a proud and parochial lot when it comes to supporting their own horses, as has often been seen when the likes of Golden Reign, Young Mister Charles NZ etc have previously started in this Grand Circuit event. So it was no surprise on race night when some solid betting came for Johnny Wizzard, the locals kept throwing it on their top hope and idol, Prodigious. The horse was in good form; it was from a stable striving to win its third Tasmanian Championship (Karalta Bay in 1989 was the first), and driver Barrie Rattray knew every centimetre of the Hobart track. 

Almost to the exclusion of the other 10 starters, punters wanted only two chances – Johnny Wizzard from barrier four, and Prodigious from inside the 10-metre mark. It was only the steady demand from locals in throwing their lot behind Prodigious that when the field lined up to be sent on its way, the local horse had been backed in to 6/4 favourite, with Johnny Wizzard easing late in betting to start a 5/2 chance.

The first surprise came at the start when Johnny Wizzard bungled the start badly. Prodigious began like a bullet from its 10 metres, and Rattray was able to push the favourite through inside Go Charles NZ, which had skipped around off the front. The local Butler Billy had taken up the early lead, only to have the favourite rush past him and go to the front before Scott Ford could do anything about this sudden move.

Rattray has an excellent record driving this track. When on a horse with any ability, out in front is the place to keep away from interference. Mid-race Paul Hill embarked on moving Mountain Glory around the field to race outside the favourite. But when Rattray decided it was time to move up a gear, Prodigious lived up to its name. If there had lingered any doubt about the ability of the favourite, Prodigious controlled the race throughout before moving away to win by almost 10 metres from a fast-finishing Living Angel. Johnny Wizzard battled on well for third, with Mountain Glory beating only one rival home.

Having bred the winner, the Rattray family were delighted with this victory, especially with the ease which the six-year-old had achieved the chore. There was some interest shown in purchasing Prodigious, but nothing definite was in the pipeline. After the presentation, the trainer said he would press on with plans to take the horse to Sydney in March, stopping off in Melbourne on the way to start this latest winner on the Grand Circuit in the two-mile A.G. Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley.


1977-1991 known as Australian Grand Circuit.  1992 New Zealand included, and Circuit renamed Australasian Grand Circuit.

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