Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2006/2007 Season
Two weeks after winning the Fremantle Cup when the rank outsider, Shardons Aflyin NZ on Friday night was again almost friendless in betting at 35/1 on the tote when powering home to win the Australian Pacing Cup from Ohoka Ace NZ and Lookslikelightning.
Captivated by the outstanding win of the up-and-coming Tealsby Karita the week before in the WA Pacing Cup, punters again threw in heavily on this former Victorian, sending it out a 4/6 favourite. From an awkward draw, it raced in the ‘death’ throughout and finished a battling fourth.
The much-travelled Flashing Red (Queensland), certain to be named Grand Circuit Champion for 2006/07, was sent out second favourite but was beaten a long way from home, fading badly in the last lap. The veteran pacer has a poor record competing at Gloucester Park carnivals having won just one of 21 starts there.
Essentially a sit-and-sprint pacer, when Shardons Aflyin NZ drew barrier three earlier in the week, trainer-driver Grant Williams told the media he would make every effort to land three back on the pegs early and then drive for luck.
The race went strictly to his script, gaining a run through at the bell when Justin Warwick hooked No Blue Manna off the back of the leader. It was the luck Williams had hoped for, allowing him to go through onto the back of the leader, then sprint fast to the line when gaining a late run.
It is well documented how Shardons Aflyin NZ was earlier troubled by stomach ulcers, two colic attacks, and problems with its feet, restricting Williams to have raced the now 6YO gelding sparingly.
The horse did not race at two, but did win at its three-year-old debut in New Zealand in January 2004. It was then placed at four of its next six starts before being sold to Perth’s Rob Tomlinson and Paul Everett. Its two recent Group One victories at Gloucester Park have seen more than $259,200 jump into their bank, taking the gelding’s lifetime record to 49 starts for 21 wins and ten placings.
When several of the main fancies drew wide barriers last week, it was thought that Tealsby Karita was vulnerable from gate eight, with Flashing Red, not noted for beginning fast, coming out of seven. But this did not stop punters from again climbing on board these two performers.
The only other horse in single figures with bookies and the tote was Lookslikelightning. After some poor barrier draws, it would start from the pole, raising hopes for connections for a big effort.
As expected, it began fast to take up the lead, with the favourite beginning so quickly out wide that Gary Hall Jnr. probably had little option other than to press on and cross to the outside of the speedy pole-marker.
With Hall’s reputation of being an aggressive driver, Mark Reed kept the early speed on with the leader, with any further challenge to get past Lookslikelightning then surely proving unwise with Tealsby Karita.
No Blue Manna and Kotare Flame NZ had also gone away nicely, with Flashing Red as usual dropping back in the field to be seventh after rounding the first turn. Its Kiwi driver Anthony Butt, who had won both the New Zealand and Auckland Cups with this pacer this season, as usual wasted little time moving around the field with the noted stayer.
Shardons Aflyin NZ had crossed to be three back on the pegs, on the back of No Blue Manna, which in turn was following Lookslikelightning, then keeping the field moving at a good clip in the hope of not giving Hall ideas of trying to dash the favourite to the front.
This was evident when they paced the first quarter of the last mile in 29.1 seconds. The last mile of the race would be clocked at 1:58.6 seconds, making it an evenly run event with no loafing up front.
It would seem Flashing Red has trained off after its hectic season, as it uncharacteristically began giving ground a long way from home. (It had also raced below its usual form in its two previous appearances at this Perth carnival.)
Meanwhile, Tealsby Karita was still whacking away leading the outside division coming around the final turn. When No Blue Manna was taken off the pegs at this stage and swung three wide, it briefly looked a top chance. Neither it or the favourite though had much left to give under pressure.
With Ohoka Ace NZ (eighth at the bell) running on stoutly, it seemed anyone of a half-dozen pacers could win the race some 50 metres out. It was then the eventual winner came flashing through on the pegs to hit the front metres from the line, beating Ohoka Ace NZ by a neck, with Lookslikelightning hanging on for third a nose away. The mile rate was 1:57.4.
It was an emotional victory for trainer-driver Williams who in the Fremantle Cup had opted to drive stablemate Precious Dylan NZ, a horse at the time he considered to have been a likely star at this carnival. It has since had its campaign derailed by a hoof injury.
Williams brushed away a tear or two when being mobbed by family and friends when bringing Shardons Aflyin NZ back to the presentation area. He was quick to point out how luck was with him in the run, firstly when Warwick took No Blue Manna off the back of the leader rounding the hometurn, and into the straight when Lookslikelightning rolled away from the pegs enabling him to push his horse through on the inside to gain a narrow margin on the line.
With Western Australian businessmen with money keen to purchase quality pacers in recent years, Perth trainers have been targeting promising horses in New Zealand for clients. This will only become a stronger trend with talk there of higher minimum city stakes at Gloucester Park. In this eventuality, more and more pacers from the eastern stakes are also likely to find their way across to the west.