Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Pacers 2002/2003 Season
Leg 12:  Be Active WA Pacing Cup 2002/2003Results   Points
              24/01/2003  Gloucester Park, Perth  WA  2544m  Mobile Start  $200,000
  Grand Circuit Home Page

While a number of the likely starters in the WA Pacing Cup were contesting the APC at Gloucester Park that Friday night, two of the best pacers in the West had been doing a great deal of basking in the sun. Baltic Eagle NZ and Highest Honour NZ had both been saved for Perth’s biggest annual race.

Both pacers had been given a light schedule since their gut-busting efforts in the Fremantle Cup. Baltic Eagle NZ had on several days been floated by trainer Kim Prentice to the Bunbury estuary for splash around in the water, while trainer Jarrad Humphries had left Highest Honour NZ grazing in his best paddock for three days as part of its ‘refresher’ after the Cup.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Harper was not yet convinced the shocking effort from Shattering Class was entirely due to its summer hoodoo. The caretaker trainer believed the horse required a vital shoe change, and sent an SOS off to Collie trainer Errol Ashcroft to make a special trip down to Perth to put the right shoes on the horse.

Ashcroft had always been there to help out with the horse since the day his father George had arrived home with this son of Golden Greek USA when a yearling. In fact, Errol Ashcroft had driven the horse to win on debut at Harvey in November 1993 – a time when none of its WA Cup rivals had been born. Errol had driven the horse until Harper took over as the regular driver.

Yet again Harper was in demand with local trainers for his services. On the Monday morning he had the choice of Shattering Class, Highest Honour NZ or Backina Falcon. He asked these stables could he delay his decision until after the barrier draw that night.  Connections of Highest Honour NZ insisted they wanted a commitment from the leading reinsman before the barrier draw.

On the instructions of trainer Jarrad Humphries, Chris Lewis and Fred Kersley were on standby to drive Highest Honour NZ. Harper explained how Humphries had told him the previous day that the horse’s owners wanted a commitment before the barrier draw. “I have not heard back from the camp, so I’m not sure what the latest is. So I guess I will be on Shattering Class.”


Baltic Eagle NZ

The WATA is well known for its excellent promotions for any noteworthy meeting, and for its major summer carnival. Little is ever spared. The barrier draw that Monday night was held during a gala function at Burswood International ballroom. The draw proved extremely satisfying for the connections of three of the main fancies – Backina Falcon, Baltic Eagle NZ and Manifold Bay – as this trio would line-up in the first three barriers. The field for the WA Cup in barrier order was: 1- Backina Falcon, 2- Baltic Eagle NZ, 3- Manifold Bay,  4- Chivalrous Fella, 5- Another Party NZ, 6- Highest Honour NZ, 7- Bengeeman, 8- Shattering Class, 9- Sokys Raider NZ, 10- Meggie Dear, 11- Golden Resonator, 12- Saabella. Emergencies were Next Ruler and Golden Gears.

With the former Perth No 1 bookmaker Ross Cooper having hung up his bag to become employed by the WATA, Michael Kalaf was now recognised as the unofficial leading bookmaker in that part of the world. Following the announcement of the barrier draw, Kalaf was quick to install Baltic Eagle NZ his 6/4 favourite with the release of his pre-post betting market, from 3/1 Manifold Bay, 7/1 Backina Falcon, Sokys Raider NZ, 10/1 Shattering Class and Highest Honour NZ, 12/1 Another Party NZ, 14/1 Bengeeman, 20/1 Chivalrous Fella, Meggie Dear, 50/1 Saabella and Golden Resonator.

The barrier draw influenced the betting market in no small way. It also greatly influenced the decision of Lindsay Harper deciding which horse he would drive. He was now quick to climb back into the sulky of Backina Falcon, after first having to secure the permission of stewards. Trainer Terry Ferguson said he was happy to drive stablemate Saabella should it secure a start. Ferguson, who had held a driving licence for some 30 years, would usually call on a proven reinsman whenever he had a smart pacer involved in an important race. Trevor Warwick was pleased to team up with Shattering Class, a horse he had watched win countless races in previous years when in a rival camp.

Lady Luck was still looking over the shoulder of Terry Ferguson. After teaming up with Backina Fella to win the APC, now securing the pole was a great draw. It would also add much pressure on whoever drove this handsome black. For this reason he was more than happy to handpass to Harper knowing there was none better in Perth. Chris Lewis was engaged to pilot Highest Honour NZ.

The gala dinner was a big night for Bunbury’s Kim Prentice. Not only did part-owner Ross North pull out barrier two for Baltic Eagle NZ in the barrier draw, but that night Prentice was presented with his trophy for winning the leading Metropolitan trainers’ award for the 2001-2002 season. He would also have a second string in the WA Cup with Chivalrous Fella to be driven by Colin Brown.

The records of the main hopes going into this Group One event is interesting. Another Party NZ had won 27 of its 113 starts with 15 seconds and 16 thirds for a total of $819,591 in stakes. Backina Falcon on the other hand had started just 26 times for 16 wins, three seconds and one third to bank $137,630. Baltic Eagle NZ had won 15 of its 27 starts with three seconds and a third for total stakes of $153,640. Manifold Bay had won 24 of its 39 starts, with seven seconds and a third, with stakes of $527,104. Shattering Class was still sitting on 62 wins from 185 starts with 24 seconds and 15 thirds and $807,852 in stakemoney. Sokys Raider NZ had raced 59 times for its 24 wins, nine seconds and four thirds, banking $156,147.

TAB Sportsbet had been operating fixed odds betting on the WA Cup even in the days before the Fremantle Cup. Its spokesman, Wayne Annear, two days before the big race said that it would be an extremely bad result for them if Baltic Eagle NZ was successful. “We had this horse at $13 until it won the Fremantle Cup, and since then the support for the horse has been massive.” The much improved Baltic Eagle NZ had now shortened to $2. Meanwhile, the fast beginning Next Ruler had been sold to the USA the previous day, and would have its final start in Perth in the WA Cup Consolation.

The following day Annear reported there had been a string of sizeable bets from Victoria placed on Manifold Bay, with the visiting pacer from Melbourne firming into $5.25. Sokys Raider NZ had also been well supported, with one of the larger wagers being $1000 each way. Its odds had been trimmed from $11 to $9. Of those out of the main betting, there was one wager of $500 each way for the mare Meggie Dear at the odds of $21. Though three of the main fancies in the Cup were Kiwi-bred, most of the money bet by New Zealanders that week in Perth was not on the WA Cup with TAB Sportsbet, but on Cricket’s World Cup in South Africa, forcing the odds about the Kiwis from $15 to $7. (This collect would weeks later help them recover what they were about to lose on the biggest race of the year at Gloucester Park.)

The noted horseman Fred Kersley in his guest role with The West Australian, selected Baltic Eagle NZ to win from Manifold Bay, with Bengeeman and Meggie Dear both being given place hopes by the legendary trainer and onetime leading reinsman at Perth. “From barrier two, Baltic Eagle is the key to the event because Kim Prentice will be in a position to control the race. If this horse is half as good as some of the raps I have been hearing about him, then he should win. This race is a much better one than the APC, as it is full of quality,” wrote Kersley.

In most WA Pacing Cups there is much to talk about the tactics employed by the competing reinsmen on a track of 804.5m in circumference, with a home straight of 175m. This would not be the case with the 2003 Cup when Baltic Eagle NZ went straight to the lead and remained unchallenged to lead throughout. Perhaps the race was dull to some, but it did confirm that WA had unearthed an outstanding pacer. Its mile rate of 1:58.4 could have been better had the winner not turned the event into a one-act affair, cruising home to beat Backina Falcon by 10m, with Meggie Dear a head away third. Bengeeman and Sokys Raider NZ both ran respectable races to finish just out of the placings, while Manifold Bay was disappointing, beating only Another Party NZ and Shattering Class home.

Having won the Fremantle and Western Australian Cups double, Kim Prentice was on a high immediately after the race, already announcing the horse would be going east to the Melbourne Carnival the following month. “And if the horse lives up to my expectations, we will also go on to New Zealand for the Christchurch Inter Dominion.” A horseman is always entitled to dream in horse racing. Sometimes those dreams do come true.

Meanwhile, connections of Shattering Class immediately took the stallion home that night stating he had probably run his last race. Errol Ashcroft, son of the two owners, said the old stallion would certainly never be asked to race in a Pacing Cup again. The horse had been used by the family as a private sire, to that stage having sired four pacers. Terry Ferguson was one of the beaten trainers who was delighted with his horse, as the lightly raced Backina Falcon had given its all in finishing second to what was obviously a very good winner. Baltic Eagle NZ had now started three times for Kim Prentice’s Bunbury stables, and had won all three races.

“I was confident when we stepped on to the track tonight,” a delighted horseman said at the winning presentation. “And when he went straight to the lead, it was all over. This bloke is an exciting horse. He definitely has a big motor, and a big future on the Grand Circuit.”


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

back to top