Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:   Pacers 2004/2005 Season
Leg 9:   Be Active Fremantle Pacing Cup   2004/2005Results   Points
              14/01/2005  Gloucester Park, Perth  WA  2907m  Standing Start  $125,000
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Even leading drivers struggle to win a race on the Grand Circuit. In Perth this week, Chris Lewis collected his fifth Fremantle Cup driving outsider Sandy Bay NZ at its very first start in fast-class company. 

Much of the build-up to the race centred on the clash of arch rivals Baltic Eagle NZ and The Falcon Strike NZ, rated at various times during the past three years as No 1 in the land. But neither landed a glove on Sandy Bay NZ, which led all the way to win by a clear margin over Ohoka Ace NZ and Baltic Eagle NZ. 

Despite Western Australia having numerous well known breeders, including Australia’s largest (Mick Lombardo), more than half of the field were bred across the Tasman and later sold to Perth owners in the hope of making the big-time in the west. All three placegetters were Kiwi-breds. 

Sandy Bay NZ, purchased rather cheaply by Helena Vale hobby trainer Des Parr while one of a party attending the Christchurch Inter Dominion won by Baltic Eagle NZ in 2003. The 5YO gelding was given some chance by its owner-trainer. 

 “I was shaking like a leaf when Valley Champ won the Golden Nugget for me in 1993 because I had not expected him to win. But this time I thought Sandy Bay would run a good race from the pole, and it was being driven by Chris Lewis. There is no better driver in WA than Lewis,” said Parr after his win. 

Lewis, who back in 1976 became the then youngest reinsman to win an Inter Dominion Grand Final (Carclew), was more ‘pumped up’ before this race than after. When about to take his place in the sulky of Sandy Bay NZ, he noticed the tyres were not as tight as he wished. While Parr held the horse, Lewis went to work with the pump.  


Parr is a great contributor to the harness industry. He is a committeeman of the WA Trotting Association, and is the training co-ordinator of the SWAN TAFE-RAWA programs in Perth. At one time he also managed the TAB office at the famous WACA ground, across the road from Gloucester Park. 

The Falcon Strike NZ was sent out favourite, marginally ahead of Baltic Eagle NZ. While the latter battled on gamely to finish third after working hard from its co-backmark of 20 metres, the failure of The Falcon Strike NZ raises questions about whether the 7YO stallion these days has his mind on other things than racing. 

Last time in work its form tapered off after several promising efforts to regain its best. It is again following a similar pattern. With the Australian Pacing Championship and the WA Cup both in the next two weeks in Perth, it will be interesting to see how trainer Gary Hall can get his top pacer back to something like its previous best. 

Both Perth stallions have had more than their share of injuries. But at their best, they remain two of the best horses we have had in Australia in this present decade, as both won major races after having had to work hard during the event. The current number one pacer, Sokyola NZ, has a record (to date) of having to lead to win Group One races  and needs to prove such thinking to be wide of the mark. 

Sandy Bay NZ began best from the pole to be a clear leader into the first turn from Faking It, while Nats Nifty put a hole in its manners, going off stride. Back near the rear there were early cat-and-mouse tactics going on between Gary Hall Jnr (The Falcon Strike NZ) and Kim Prentice (Baltic Eagle NZ). 

Baltic Eagle NZ was the first to make a move from back near the tail, ensuring it would be wide for the remainder of the long journey. At the bell the horse was out three wide, still well in arrears of Sandy Bay NZ, with next coming Faking It, Money Magnet NZ and Ohoka Ace NZ.  

There was trouble rounding the hometurn the final time when it appeared that Money Magnet NZ struck a wheel and galloped. This son of Fake Left USA at the time was doing it well and seemed likely to fill a minor placing. 

Realising there was some interference going on behind him at the time, Chris Lewis dashed Sandy Bay NZ away, and the gelding held a clear margin to the winning post to win by 12 metres.  

Sandy Bay NZ had been beaten in restricted company at its previous two starts. However, Lewis explained that the return to the front line and a 20m handicap to the two best pacers in the field did the trick for his gelding. 

While The Falcon Strike NZ went into the race having won stakes of $957,979 and Baltic Eagle NZ $736,980, Sandy Bay NZ to then had banked a modest $88,396 for its 12 wins from 37 starts. Its cheque in winning the Fremantle Cup was $85,000. 


All Time Pacing and Trotting Records pre-2001 please refer to the Australian Harness Racing Annual.

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