Few horses in any code in recent years can boast such remarkable consistency as ten-year-old square-gaiter Lord Liam, whose clash with Mr Sundon, Tenno Sho and Rock Tonight in the $30,000 Mondo Doro Smallgoods Trotters Sprint over 1730m promises to be a highlight on the 11-event program at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
“He’s done a good job,” was the laconic understatement from Waroona trainer Bob Mellsop, who can lay claim as the West Australian maestro of preparing and racing trotters.
Lord Liam was sent to WA to be trained by Mellsop after the powerfully-built, barrel-chested gelding had raced in Victoria and New South Wales 57 times for 13 wins and 18 placings. Now, Lord Liam has had 45 starts for Mellsop for the incredible record of 19 wins, 16 seconds, four thirds, three fourths, one fifth, one seventh and one eighth.
In the space of four months last year Lord Liam won eight races in a row and since then his 11 starts have produced one win, seven seconds and three thirds.
Mellsop certainly has been a trendsetter and pathfinder in trotting in the past two decades in WA. Among a succession of square gaiters under his care in that time have been Dave Star (43 starts for 17 wins and nine placings), Drop of Gin (25 starts for nine wins and 11 placings), The Beau Brummel (20 starts for four wins, including the 2014 WA Trotters Cup, and seven placings), Sun of Zola (19 starts for 11 wins and five placings), Baby Jack (40 starts for six wins and 17 placings), Gee Invasion (ten starts for five wins and one placing), Our Shoe In (18 starts for five wins and five placings) and Sammy Charles (19 starts for six wins and 11 placings).
Lord Liam, with regular driver Maddison Brown in the sulky, is somewhat awkwardly drawn at barrier five in this week’s sprint event. But he should be in the firing line throughout and is capable of extending the warm favourite, the Ross Olivieri-trained Mr Sundon, who will be driven by Chris Lewis from a more favourable barrier at No. 3.
Tenno Sho, trained at Pinjarra by Tracy Reay and to be driven by Nathan Turvey, is a smart frontrunner who is ideally drawn at barrier No. 2. Tenno Sho gave a bold frontrunning display when he beat Rock Tonight and Lord Liam over 2130m on Thursday of last week.
Rock Tonight, in the Waroona stables of Nigel Johns, is brilliant but unreliable and unpredictable. He will start from the outside barrier (No. 9) with Morgan Woodley in the sulky. Rock Tonight followed a fast-finishing victory over Mr Sundon at Pinjarra with a strong-finishing last-0start second to Tenno Sho.
Johns, a stalwart and trailblazer in trotting in WA, will also be represented by the immensely popular 12-year-old Diamond Geezer, who delights trotgoers with his enthusiastic high-stepping action. The Victorian-bred Diamond Geezer has raced exclusively in WA where his 236 starts have produced 17 wins 30 seconds and 39 thirds. He will be handled by Donald Harper from out wide at barrier eight and will be at liberal odds.
Adding interest to this week’s race will be the first appearance in the State of former Victorian performers War Spirit and Princess Mila.
War Spirit, trained at Upper Swan by Michael Munro, will start from the No. 4 barrier. A winner of two races in New Zealand, War Spirit raced 37 times in Victoria for eight wins and 12 placings. He has been unplaced at his past two starts, at Melton and Globe Derby Park, but before those failures he set a track record of 2.2.4 in a 2570m stand at Geelong last November.
Five-year-old Princess Mila, trained by Gary Hall Snr, is the only mare and youngest runner in the race. She will be driven by Gary Hall Jnr from barrier two on the back line. She has not appeared since she finished third in a field of six in a 2190m stand at Mildura in April of last year.