Champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond boast a splendid record in The West Australian Nights Of Thunder and they have high hopes of winning the Group 2 $50,000 feature event with Infatuation at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The 1730m sprint has been run 14 times and the powerful Bond stable has been successful three times, winning with Quick Draw McCaw in 2008, Ohokas Bondy in 2012 and Ocean Ridge 12 months ago.
Infatuation will be handled by Ryan Warwick, who led from barrier three with Ocean Ridge, the $1.80 favourite, who defeated Bob Wheel by four lengths.
Infatuation, a New Zealand-bred five-year-old, is the least experienced runner in Friday night’s event with his 20 starts producing ten wins and four seconds. He was racing first-up after a six-month absence when he was restrained from barrier five in a qualifying heat last Friday night. He ran home solidly and was hampered for room in the home straight when a sound fifth, two lengths behind the winner Queen Shenandoah.
Infatuation is a noted frontrunner, having set the pace in eight of his nine wins from his 16 starts in Western Australia. He has begun from the No. 1 barrier twice in those 16 runs for wins over 2185m at Pinjarra and over 2130m at Gloucester Park.
Strangely, the No. 1 barrier has produced only two winners in The Nights Of Thunder the pacemakers Lombo Navigator in 2011 and Soho Lennon in 2015.
Infatuation will need to be at his top to beat Thats Perfect, the fastest of the three heat winners whose gross time of 2min. 0.477sec. was considerably faster than the 2.02.628 recorded by Infatuation. However, Infatuation has a major advantage over Thats Perfect, who is awkwardly drawn at barrier No. 5.
Thats Perfect started from barrier five in his qualifying heat when he burst to the front after 250m, set a fast pace and won by just under two lengths from stablemate Bettorstartdreaming, rating 1.52.1 which is much faster than the rates recorded by the 14 winners of this event.
Thats Perfect is prepared by eight-time WA leading trainer Ross Olivieri, who won the Nights Of Thunder with 9/1 chance Davisons Destiny, who started from barrier seven, was seventh at the bell and charged home to beat the 7/4 favourite and pacemaker Indian Giver in January 2009.
Davisons Destiny was raced by Merv Butterworth, who is a part-owner of Queen Shenandoah, a stablemate of Thats Perfect and Olivieri’s third finalist Bettorstartdreaming.
Queen Shenandoah, favourably drawn at barrier two, will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, with Lindsay Harper facing a stern test with Bettorstartdreaming from out wide at barrier No. 8.
Olivieri had no hesitation in declaring Thats Perfect as his pick of his three stable runners, saying: “He’s really chirpy and has done well since his heat win.”
Leading reinsman Chris Voak said that Thats Perfect was his best winning prospect on the night. “He will go really well,” he said. “I’d like to lead, but that is no certainty. However, he will run home in 54.8sec. or 54.7sec. even if we have to work in the breeze.”
Voak drove Queen Shenandoah (the only mare in the final) when she raced three back on the pegs before sprinting home powerfully to easily beat the pacemaker Im Rocknroll Magic in a heat last week. She should race in a prominent position on the pegs in the final before unleashing a typical strong finishing burst.
The anticipated fast pace is sure to suit the Ryan Bell-trained Blue Blazer, who will be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green from the No. 4 barrier. Blue Blazer impressed with his strong finishing burst when fourth behind Thats Perfect last Friday night.
Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, who has won the Nights Of Thunder behind Tealsby Karita (2007), Hokonui Ben (2013) and Benhope Rulz (2019), has been engaged to drive the Michael Brennan-trained Machlani. Hall replaces Michael Grantham, who is serving a brief term of suspension.