Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2003/2004 Season
“The Falcon Strike NZ is trained by Hall on a special track near Perth. This track is so deep with sand that it is like working across a ploughed paddock, enabling the horse to be worked hard, yet without the concussion that can be a problem with a horse that had broken down earlier. When no such training facilities were available around Sydney, the stallion seems to have not responded well being worked on the more conventional and firmer training tracks.”
Back in Perth with four Group One races in the coming weeks, Hall set about having his star pacer back in the form that had earlier won the hearts of so many. It resumed racing on New Year’s Eve in the $50,000 Celebrity mile. “He was nowhere near his best that night,” said Hall, “but the horse still won easily.”
Hall’s son Gary Jnr, the regular driver of The Falcon Strike NZ, in the week leading up to the Fremantle Cup said the stallion still had some way to go to be near its best. “But I would not swap him for any other drive, as there are only two other dangers in the Fremantle Cup - Tricky Vic NZ and Flashing Red. I cannot see any of the others winning.”
Only one visiting horse started in the first of Perth’s four Group One races. Flashing Red, the former Tasmanian and now Queensland-trained pacer, arrived four days before the race from its long float trip across from Melbourne. Part-owner Stuart Hunter had sent the horse to the Perth stables of Justin and Carol Warwick to be prepared for the one-off series of major racing at Gloucester Park. No flight was available from Melbourne.
Hunter has been associated with several noted pacers in previous years, but claims Flashing Red to be the best stayer he has had. “He will love the 2900m of the Fremantle Cup, but one never knows how the long trip across to Perth will affect him. The Warwick’s have told me they expect this race to benefit him a lot,” he said.
The Warwick stable, which has had good success in major Perth races in the past six years, is currently without a real star, though it does have several fast-class pacers. Justin Warwick was quick to take the drive on Flashing Red, with stablemates Boy Jones NZ to be driven by Grant Williams, and Striking Fella by Callan Suvaljko.
Mark Reed would start two horses in the race. He elected to drive Tricky Vic NZ, with his father Mike returning to the sulky to steer stablemate Golden Resonator.
Despite Gary Hall Snr suggesting The Falcon Strike NZ was not fully wound up for its return to Group One racing, throughout the week the horse remained an even-money favourite with few prepared to back against it, despite having to start off 20m. TAB Sportsbet certainly agreed. It had the stallion a $2 favourite in its pre-race betting after being rushed when first putting up $2.25, with Tricky Vic NZ $5.50 and Flashing Red $7 the only others in single figures.
The field in barrier order was: 1. Ramses, 2 Lite Red, 3 Ivory Trader, 4 Striking Fella, 5 Boy Jones NZ, 6 Buck The Odds, 7 Jimmy Nail NZ all off the front; 8 Tricky Vic NZ, 9 Flashing Red, 10 Golden Resonator, 11 Digger Of Fortune, off 10m: The Falcon Strike NZ 20m.
The interference that led to a protest by the fourth horse occurred 1200m from home. Stewards found the second horse across the line to be the offender, and relegated Tricky Vic NZ to fourth placing.
The Falcon Strike NZ easily rounded up its 11 rivals, bettering the previous race record of 2min.0.7sec mile rate for the 2900m with a mile rate of 2:0.3. Senior part-owner Mike van Rens could not hide his delight after the win. He said at the presentation how he could not wait for the interstate stars to arrive and go up against his stallion.
Only once before has Perth boasted the top two pacers in Australia. That was more than 15 years ago. Now Perth has The Falcon Strike NZ and Baltic Eagle NZ. Because of injuries to both horses, they have never met in a race at Gloucester Park. They did contest the recent Miracle Mile, with Baltic Eagle NZ flashing home in the final stages. The horse soon after suffered a leg injury and was returned to Perth to be treated.
The Falcon Strike NZ was severely injured two years ago after winning the Fremantle and WA Cups double. While sidelined for more than a year, Baltic Eagle NZ emerged the new star of the track, culminating in its impressive victory in the Christchurch Inter Dominion last year.
Meanwhile, Bunbury trainer-driver Kim Prentice says he is delighted with the progress Baltic Eagle NZ is showing with its regular work at a Bunbury beach. He says the horse will be ready to defend its Inter Dominion title when Perth hosts harness racing’s most prestigious series in March.
So pleased has Prentice been with his gelding’s progress that he might surprise some by having the horse resume racing in the $200,000 WA Pacing Cup on January 23 at Gloucester Park. “He is definitely on target to make a bold bid in defending both his WA Cup title and the Inter Dominion crown,” he said.
The problem of flying pacers to Perth in recent years is unlikely to be a major concern for the forthcoming Inter Dominion series. Alan Parker said the West Australian Trotting Association was planning to charter their own plane. This was most likely to be on the Monday following Melbourne’s A.G. Hunter Cup on February 28 at Moonee Valley.