Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Pacers 2003/2004 Season

Leg 11 Be Active Australian Pacing Championship   2003/2004Results   Points
               16/01/2004  Gloucester Park, Perth, WA  2140m  Mobile Start  $100,000
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If The Falcon Strike NZ was impressive in winning the Fremantle Cup the previous week, Western Australia’s peerless pacer was super impressive in taking out the $100,000 Australian Pacing Championship to make it 11 straight wins at his home track. 

The Falcon Strike NZ had to overcome an awkward draw, severe interference soon after the start, then race wide at some stages of the race, before powering home out wide to leave Jofess and Flashing Red in his wake. Those who believe this horse to be Australia’s best pacer now racing would have been all smiles after the event. 

Stewards later charged Justin Warwick (Flashing Red) over the interference that took place some 300 metres after the start which for one brief moment looked likely to send the favourite into a gallop. Warwick was found guilty of causing the interference, and given the choice of 28 days suspension or a fine. He went with the second option, and was fined $800. 

When asked to comment on the penalty, senior part-owner of the winner, Mike Van Rens said a fine of $800 was not a big penalty in view of what is on offer at the other end. “The champions have to be protected,” he said. The Falcon Strike NZ and Flashing Red will meet again in another Group One race this Friday night in the West Australian Pacing Cup. 

The Falcon Strike NZ was really in the wars on the night. Trainer Gary Hall Snr told stewards on arriving at the track how his stallion had suffered an abrasion to its offside hip while travelling to Gloucester Park. It did not worry the short-priced favourite in running, with the horse pulling up well. 

Sydney trainer-driver Darren Hancock, making his Perth debut with Jofess, said how his horse was all at sea with the slow early pace, but then started to settle down and then finished the race off well, though easily outclassed on the night by the winner. Jofess and Flashing Red, who filled the placings, were the only two starters from interstate. 

Flashing Red, sent from Queensland two weeks earlier to the Perth stables of Carol Warwick to be prepared for several Group One events in Perth, came from near last to grab third place. This follows the horses second in the Fremantle Cup to The Falcon Strike NZ following a successful protest.  


The Falcon Strike NZ

The barrier draw did no favours for The Falcon Strike NZ and Flashing Red – the favourite having to start from the inside of the second row, and Flashing Red from the outside barrier on the front row, gate nine. On paper this appears a most difficult task, but good horses have won Group One races from this same barrier at Gloucester Park. Jofess was drawn barrier six with Tricky Vic NZ from the pole. 

Despite The Falcon Strike NZ’s awkward barrier, the stallion was on target to start odds-on until a late move came for Tricky Vic NZ, with stable supporters snapping up what seemed good value from its favourable draw. So strong was this move that The Falcon Strike NZ actually eased to start $2.30 on Super TAB.  

At barrier release, Tricky Vic NZ as expected bounded to the lead with Lindsay Harper having Backina Falcon right on its back. There was trouble soon after the start when the favourite broke for a few strides when it seemed to tangle briefly with Flashing Red.  

Supporters of Tricky Vic NZ were horrified to see the hopple on the horse’s front nearside leg break and dangle around its legs. It is usual in such circumstances for a driver to ease his horse out of a race. But with Tricky Vic NZ out in front dictating the speed, Mark Reed elected to continue, with his horse seemingly untroubled by what could have been a disaster for many pacers. 

When Buck The Odds made a move out wide, The Falcon Strike NZ was quick to latch onto its back, only to then see driver Gary Hall Jnr ease the favourite back to wait for a better moment to make its move. Jofess was the next to go forward when The Hard Ball Get was keen to find a position on the pace.  

When Peter Anderson (Buck The Odds) demonstrated some interest in going for the lead, Darren Hancock was quick to challenge with Jofess, moving up on the outside of Tricky Vic NZ, still pacing well despite the broken hopple. The Falcon Strike NZ in the final lap took off out wide, at one stage being posted five wide. So fast did the favourite round up its rivals that he actually swept to the front rounding the last turn.  

The favourite cruised past Jofess, both dropping Tricky Vic NZ astern in their wake, with Flashing Red coming from back near the rear to grab third place. 

Driver Gary Hall Jnr described the win as “awesome”, adding how you should never give up. “But I nearly did tonight after what happened to the horse. He surprised me yet again with what he did out there,” he said. 

After the dust had settled, the winning trainer (Gary Hall Snr) was not keen on entering into a war of words over the interference early in the race.  “Justin knows he did the wrong thing, but I’m not dirty on him, though I do think stewards have to give bigger penalties for interference in big races like that.” 

Trainer-driver of Bucking The Odds, who has stated he is not happy with his horse’s rating for the forthcoming Inter Dominion (47), said he went into the APC with a two-fold plan. “And it worked,” as nobody did more work than him in the race. The horse deserves more respect, and he might just get that now,” he said, after it had finished eighth to The Falcon Strike NZ.  

The first three home in the Australian Pacing Championship will again go around in Friday’s WA Pacing Cup (January 23).  Additionally, the added attraction is the return to racing from injury of Inter Dominion Champion Baltic Eagle NZ. 

The clash of these four horses is likely to provide one of the great spectacles of this season’s Grand Circuit. The race will also present The Falcon Strike with a further opportunity of confirming his status as Australia’s No 1 pacer following his two disappointing efforts in Sydney in November/December when unplaced in the Miracle Mile and the Treuer Memorial.  

In the Eastern States the mantle of the nation’s top pacer remains with Double Identity following excellent form on the Grand Circuit this season. His clash with The Falcon Strike NZ will be a promoter’s dream. 

TAB Sportsbet framed a market before the barrier draw this week with The Falcon Strike NZ favourite at $2.50, Baltic Eagle NZ, the defending titleholder, was a $5 chance. 

Meanwhile, Perth officials are hoping to overcome the recent problems of flying horses to Perth from Melbourne. It is planning to charter its own flight for horses off to the Perth Inter Dominion. It is planned for this charter to leave Melbourne two days after the $400,000 A.G. Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley on February 28. 

The Inter Dominion Pacing Championship will open in Perth on Friday, March 12, with the $500,000 Grand Final on March 26.


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