Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2006/2007 Season
Trainer Grant Williams has spent many months nursing 6YO Shardons Aflyin NZ through ulcers, two bouts of colic and feet problems and spacing out its races at Gloucester Park. When it came to last Friday night's Fremantle Cup, he preferred to drive stablemate Precious Dylan NZ. The public agreed with him, allowing Shardons Aflyin NZ to start the rank outsider in the field.
They were all wrong.
Near the end of the 2907 metres it was Shardons Aflyin NZ that ignored the betting drift and the fading confidence of Williams, knifing its way out of the pack with a late dash to victory beating Kotare Flame NZ and Precious Dylan NZ, giving stand-in driver Kim Young his first Group One winner at his first drive on the gelding.
The short-priced favourite Flashing Red the previous Friday night had been in New Zealand setting a world record mile rate of 1:57.6 for a similar distance.
Connections were happy to have transported this remarkable veteran to Melbourne, then later to Perth arriving only the day before the Fremantle Cup. They banked on his toughness - they too were wrong, with the 9YO finishing near last.
Flashing Red was one of only two pacers from the eastern States to start in the race. It arrived in Perth equal leader on the points table for Grand Circuit Champion with Blacks A Fake back spelling in Queensland after successfully defending its Inter Dominion title won in Hobart with an impressive effort in Adelaide in January.
While Flashing Red had surprisingly put in one or two puzzling efforts as the most travelled pacer in Australia, his remarkable staying performances in winning the New Zealand Cup in November and the Auckland Cup this month was form well above anything seen by any of its 11 rivals going into Friday's $200,000 Fremantle Cup, the first leg of three Grand Circuit races in three weeks at Gloucester Park.
After considering the suggestion of Flashing Red's two Queensland owners to attempt the rushed trip across to Melbourne and then on to Perth, driver and fill-in horseman Anthony Butt warmed to the idea after being told how tough this veteran was in travelling long distances to major races.
Stuart Hunter, co-owner and usually the gelding's trainer, must have had some doubt in his mind, as he was reported on leaving New Zealand as saying if Flashing Red showed any sign of having trained off in Perth they would pull the plug on it starting in the $250,000 WA Pacing Cup this Friday, and the $200,000 Australian Pacing Championship the following week.
As the horse pulled up well from the Fremantle Cup, it is now expected to race again in Perth's top race this week, though his much awaited clash with former Grand Circuit champion Be Good Johnny is now unlikely because of transport problems from Queensland, with connections not willing to have it arrive there as late as Thursday.
The surprising part of Shardons Aflyin NZ starting rank outsider is that a study of its form reveals two important points - it is a standing start specialist, having won six of its fifteen starts from the stand. It is also best over staying distances, winning at its only start over the marathon 3309m, and racing extra well over distances similar to the Fremantle Cup.
Flashing Red, the lone backmarker of 20m, and Sir Galvinator, the other horse from the east, both struck trouble at the start, as did Lookslikelightning from 10m.
Starting from the pole, Gary Hall Jnr dashed Kotare Flame NZ away nicely to lead, with Shardons Aflyin NZ, Lightning Jake and Precious Dylan NZ coming off 10m like a flash to secure forward positions, with Williams then able to give Precious Dylan NZ a nice run on the rails with cover.
Sir Galvinator was bringing up the rear after going into a gallop at the start while Flashing Red and Lookslikelightning made up the early ground they had lost when striking trouble.
Butt made the usual move on the tough staying Flashing Red, working around the field three wide a long way from home with Sir Galvinator on its back. But the usual sparkle was not there with the favourite. At no time did it look likely to make it around into the 'death' seat outside the leader, briefly reaching fourth outside near the bell. It did not look good for the two horses from the east into the last lap.
Kotare Flame NZ took the field through the first quarter of the final mile 29.8, making it to the half in 60.9. With the favourite showing none of its usual fighting qualities, Hall put his foot down with the leader, and Kotare Flame NZ moved away, looking the likely winner. It was then that Young brought the rank outsider into the picture, finishing with a strong burst. The last quarter was paced in 28.8.
Kim Young, 43, can count himself fortunate in securing the winning drive. The backup reinsman for the Williams stable, Ryan Warwick, was committed to drive Gee Whiz Fizz in the race. On crossing the line a winner, Young celebrated by immediately thrusting both arms skyward in a victory salute.
Virtually unknown to harness followers in the east, Shardons Aflyin NZ, close to death in one major colic attack, is an extremely well-bred pacer. By the successful son of Beach Towel USA, Sands A Flyin USA, it is from the Vance Hanover USA mare Shardon Lass (NZ), whose first six foals to race have produced five winners. The second dam, Miranda Lass (NZ), had 10 winners, six in two minutes, and the third dam Miranda Bay (NZ) was NZ Broodmare of the Year when her son Luxury Liner NZ was the top pacer in the Dominion.
Trainer Williams said there was a time when he thought Shardons Aflyin NZ would become a Grand Circuit horse until almost losing it as a 5YO through colic when he then believed it would be an unfulfilled talent. "The Fremantle Cup was always going to suit him if I could get him right on the night," he said after the win.
A most interesting addition to this week's WA Pacing Cup will be former Victorian Tealsby Karita. Trainer Gary Hall said at the weekend that if the much improved rising star in Perth draws a favourable barrier it will win for sure. "Next to Falcon Strike NZ, he is the best horse I have ever trained," he added.
A big statement from one who has trained numerous stars over the years.
In recent years Perth patrons have been buying more New Zealand-bred pacers than members of any other major club in Australia. No fewer than half the field in Friday night’s big race were from across the Tasman, providing good opposition in staying races to Perth’s top pacer, Lookslikelightning, which made up a lot of ground in the Cup after early interference to finish a splendid fifth.