Rockaball triumphs over adversity
Oakford trainer Caris Hamilton-Smith achieved her biggest success in harness racing when rank outsider Rockaball stormed home from the rear to win the Fly Like An Eagle group 3 Warwick Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The victory at tote odds of $112.60 gave the 29-year-old Hamilton-Smith her first success in a group feature event and was a just reward for her patience with the New Zealand-bred six-year-old whose career was in doubt two years ago.
Rockaball was off the scene for 23 months after complications set in after the gelding trod on a fencing nail in his paddock.
Before that, he had damaged a tendon in a race at Gloucester Park. “He recovered and on his way back he stepped on a nail which almost pierced his tendon in his nearside front leg,” said Hamilton-Smith.
“The hole in his hoof became infected and he underwent surgery to dig out the infection. Then we had to wait for the foot to re-grow, basically, and he was confined to a box for six months.”
Hamilton-Smith nursed Rockaball back to full strength and the gelding resumed racing in June this year with successive wins at Narrogin and Northam, followed by a splendid effort in finishing second to Alta Engen in a heat of the John Higgins Memorial before he started from a wide barrier, covered a lot of extra ground and finished last behind See Ya Write in the final of the Higgins.
Rockaball then finished a fair seventh in the group 2 $50,000 San Simeon Classic before Hamilton-Smith freshened him up for a tilt at the $30,000 Warwick Pace in which he drew the outside barrier (No. 9) for his first appearance for seven weeks.
Colin Brown’s Regal Cheval was the $2.20 favourite from barrier one, and was generally expected to set the pace. However, Michael Grantham had different ideas, and he got the Michael Brennan-trained Withoutthetuh ($14) away brilliantly from barrier seven to forge to the front after 100m.
Micheal Ferguson settled Rockaball down in tenth position, while Be My Rock ($6.50) surged forward to work in the breeze. Rockaball was tenth at the bell, and he dashed forward, three wide, at the 600m before Cody Wallrodt eased $26 chance Allwood Glow out three wide, thus giving Rockaball an ideal trip.
Rockaball sustained his strong burst and got to the front 50m from the post before beating Withoutthetuh by 2m at a 1.57.4 rate over the 2130m journey. Regal Cheval fought on along the inside to be third, just ahead of Allwood Glow.
The 24-year-old Ferguson said that Hamilton-Smith had given Rockaball a couple of weeks off to freshen up the horse. “And this has done him the world of good,” he said.
“We had no set plans from the outside barrier. We thought that if they went hard, it would suit him. Otherwise, we would be looking for short cuts. They went hard, which was perfect, and at the bell I thought it was time to go. Then Cody came out in front of us which was handy. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.”
Rockaball is raced by Hamilton-Smith, her father Geordie and her uncle Lindsay Hamilton-Smith. He is by Rock N Roll Heaven and is the first foal out of Shezaball, who had 30 starts for eight wins, eight placings and $57,320 in stakes.
He was recommended to Hamilton-Smith by an agent in New Zealand and cost $40,000 landed in Western Australia. His 17 WA starts have produced seven wins and three placings for earnings of $51,784.
Bletchley Park bounces back in style
Victorian-bred gelding Bletchley Park has made a full recovery from a leg injury and returned to racing after an absence of 27 weeks in fine style with a stylish all-the-way victory in the 2536m Follow The Stars WA’s Leading Three and All Aged Sire Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Driven for the first time by Gary Hall jnr, Bletchley Park, the $1.60 favourite from the No. 1 barrier, was not seriously challenged as he set a solid pace and defeated Iceenothink ($16) by two lengths at a 1.57.2 rate.
Bunbury trainer Stephen Reed said that it was good to see Bletchley Park resume racing and continue the good form he showed before he hurt his off-side front leg when in the Narrogin Cup last March in which he finished seventh behind Vultan Tin.
“He tore a tendon sheath, nothing structural, but enough to irritate and cause a bit of a problem,” he said. “He did rehab work at Frank Bonnett’s and then came back to me looking really good.
“It has been smooth sailing and he hasn’t had any flare-ups. Once he drew one, I was reasonably confident, even though once they come back you don’t know whether they still have the appetite or whether they have lost it. The plan is to try to keep him sound and healthy and head towards the feature races in the summer.”
While Bletchley Park was impressive, it was good to see eight-year-old Iceenothink performing strongly at his first appearance for 16 months. Iceenothink, trained by Ross Olivieri and driven by Chris Lewis, trailed the pacemaker throughout and fought on solidly.
Bletchley Park, owned by Albert and Julie Walmsley, has earned $333,349 from 17 wins and 20 placings from 51 starts. He is by American Ideal and is out of the Caprock mare Alldatglittersisgold, the dam of eight winners of 135 races, including Baby Bling (55 starts for 21 wins, ten placings and $854,490) and Bling It On (100 starts for 49 wins, 24 placings and $1,882,957).
Alta Engen just holds on
Inexperienced but talented four-year-old Alta Engen was a hot $1.60 favourite from the No. 1 barrier in the Allwood Stud Sires Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he gave his supporters a scare when he set the pace and just scrambled home to win by a head from the fast-finishing Alta Intrigue ($16).
On the surface, it appeared to be a rather disappointing effort by Alta Engen, but Capel trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo blamed himself for the close finish, saying: “I almost made a blue by holding him back, worrying about Blue Blazer behind us, and not worrying about horses coming up on the outside.
“Alta Engen takes a bit to stoke up, the big fella, but he was good enough to win. If we had gone another 300m he would have kicked back and won easily. Luckily, he kicked back late when Alta Intrigue was coming.
“He is normally better if you cut him loose at the 400 or 500 metres, and really let him go. Holding him up and then letting him go, he gets a bit lost. He is still learning, has had only 23 starts and was up in grade tonight.”
De Campo finally let Alta Engen go about 150m from home and he held on grimly to beat Alta Intrigue, who has raced in fifth place, three back on the pegs, before finishing powerfully, out three wide. Alta Engen has earned $115,474 from 12 wins and six placings.
Blue Blazer was blocked for a run until the final stages before he finished solidly into third place.
Babyface Adda wins first-up
Boyanup trainer-reinsman Cody Wallrodt produced Babyface Adda in fine fettle for a first-up victory in the 2130m Follow The Stars Standing at Medowie Lodge NSW Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Having his first start for five months, the five-year-old son of Rich And Spoilt, the second fancy at $5.60, gave a spirited frontrunning performance and sprinted over the final 800m in 57.1sec. to win narrowly from Vespa ($7) and Walsh ($1.50).
Vespa, who was fifth on the pegs at the bell, rattled home out four wide, and Walsh charged home, out five wide, from seventh at the bell.
Babyface Adda was due to have resumed racing a fortnight earlier in a Free For All featuring Magnificent Storm and Vampiro, but Wallrodt scratched him when he was not satisfied with his condition.
“He hadn’t felt great in his trackwork and when jogging, so I scratched him,” said Wallrodt. “That has been a blessing in disguise because I was able to get the work into him, and he has improved in the past two weeks.
“I’m hoping he will keep improving and that he can step up to Free For All company. It would be awesome if he kept improving and maybe qualify for the big Cups at Christmas time.”
Wallrodt races Babyface Adda on lease from Peter Capararo, and the gelding now boasts a splendid record of 63 starts for 14 wins, 15 placings and stakes of $168,763.
Wainui Creek completes a hat-trick
Quality mare Wainui Creek completed a hat-trick of wins when she overcame the disadvantage of starting from the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line and scoring an impressive victory in the $22,000 Rock N Roll World Standing at Cobbitty Equine NSW Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Star reinsman Ryan Warwick was rewarded for driving the Greg and Skye Bond-trained Waiunui Creek as the best mare in the 2130m event in which she settled down in eighth position before Warwick set her alight 400m after the start. Wainui Creek surged forward to race outside the $1.90 favourite Alta Louisa, who took the lead after 500m.
Wainui Creek got to the front 50m from the post, and she fought on grandly to beat the $3.90 second fancy Star Of Diamonds by a head after that mare had sustained a powerful three-wide burst from sixth at the bell.
Wainui Creek, the best-performed runner in the 2130m event, started at the generous price of $8.30 despite winning at four of her previous five starts, including commanding victories at her two previous outings. Many punters obviously disregarded her as a winning prospect because of the wide draw.
A winner of six races in New Zealand, Wainui Creek, a daughter of champion sire Bettors Delight, has now earned $306,856 from 14 wins and 14 placings from 43 starts. Her 18 starts for the Bonds in WA have produced eight wins and two placings.
Rabchenko is a family affair
Veteran pacer Rabchenko ended a losing sequence of 13 when he returned to form with a vengeance, finishing strongly to win the 2130m Breed To Eagle To Get Your Double Westbred Bonus Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The eight-year-old, trained at Pinjarra by Frank Vanmaris, is raced on lease by his daughter Asha, and was driven skilfully by her fiancé Chris Voak.
Rabchenko’s victory came as an early wedding present for Asha and Chris, who will be married in Yallingup on November 27.
Rabchenko was leased by Kevin Charles to Asha Vanmaris last March, and his 16 starts for Frank Vanmaris have produced two wins and four placings.
“He finally put in a good run,” said Voak. “He has had problems with his feet and Frank is very good at shoeing, while Asha is a veterinary nurse and has tended to his well-being. Now that Rabchenko has found form I expect him to hold his form.”
Rabchenko was an $8.60 chance from barrier two on the back line, and Voak quickly positioned him into the favourable one-out, one-back position, with the $1.80 favourite Lord Rosco setting the pace. Voak timed Rabchenko’s finishing burst to perfection and the gelding swept past the pacemaker in the home straight to win by a neck after a final quarter of 28.1sec.
Rabchenko, a son of Art Major, has had 112 starts for 16 wins, 21 placings and $163,019 in prizemoney.
Hit The Sky is a stand specialist
New Zealand-bred six-year-old Hit The Sky maintained his wonderful form in standing-start events when Aldo Cortopassi drove skilfully to land him a narrow winner in the 2503m Rock N Roll World No. 1 Stallion Family In The World Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
After his first two starts in Western Australia were in mobile events for a third at Northam and a win at Gloucester Park, Darling Downs trainer Amber Sparks and her partner Cortopassi have restricted him to stands, with his past 15 starts all being in stands for three wins, three seconds, three thirds, four fourths and two fifths.
He was a $5.60 chance from barrier four on the front line, and he raced in fifth position, three back on then pegs, with $15 chance Gee Smith setting a brisk pace and the $2.35 favourite Double Up in the breeze
Cortopassi eased Hit The Sky off the pegs 400m from home, but he was still badly hampered for room until Cortopassi was able to switch him four wide on the home turn. He then finished strongly to beat Gee Smith by a head, with Triroyale Brigade ($61) fighting on to finish third. Double Up wilted to sixth, and the $3.30 second fancy Typhoon Banner finished tenth after galloping at the start and racing at the rear.
Hit The Sky now has earned $98,266 from nine wins and 27 placings from 70 starts.
Always An Angel is tough
The much-anticipated match race between Always An Angel and Booraa eventuated, with the quality three-year-old fillies locked in battle throughout the 1730m Allwood Stud Committed To The Future Of Harness Racing In WA Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Booraa ($2.45) burst straight to the front from the No. 5 barrier, with Gary Hall jnr sending Always An Angel ($1.60) forward from the outside in the field of seven to race in the breeze.
After opening 400m sections of 30.4sec. and 29.4sec., the tempo increased in the final circuit as Always An Angel challenged hard for the lead. Booraa, driven by Ryan Warwick, sped through the third quarter in 28.5sec. and she and Always An Angel were locked together over the final section in 28.7sec. with Always An Angel prevailing in the final stride to gain the verdict by a nose, rating 1.56.1.
“If she keeps having tough runs, I’ll probably not give her too many more starts in this preparation because she will be drawing outside barriers,” said trainer Justin Prentice. “And that makes it too hard for fillies, mentally, not that hard runs seem to bother her. She never wins by far, and tonight she stuck her nose in front at the right time.”
Always An Angel is by Art Major and is the first foal out of the Christian Cullen mare Angel of Destiny, who raced ten times without winning and recording three placings for prizemoney of $4182. Always An Angel has had 18 starts for 11 wins, five placings and stakes of $179,654.
High Price set for big things
Two-year-old Alta Christiano gelding High Price made a magnificent debut and looks set for stardom after setting then pace and winning easily in the 2130m Rock N Roll World Pedigree Perfection Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Trained by Gary Hall snr and driven confidently by Gary Hall jnr, High Price was the second favourite at $2.70 from the coveted No. 1 barrier, and he gave his supporters no cause for concern as he paced faultlessly in front and won by two lengths at a 1.58 rate from the $8.50 chance Paul Edward, who was last in the field of eight at the bell before running home fast, out four wide.
The $2.20 favourite Swingband started from the outside barrier and quickly moved to the breeze. But he wilted in the home straight to finish sixth.
High Price is owned by Victorians Adam Merrington and M. Howden and Hall senior’s wife Karen. The well-muscled gelding is the first foal out of the Grinfromeartoear mare Harriet Price, who won twice in New Zealand before being purchased for $30,000 by Hall snr for Merrington and Howden.
Harriet Price had eight starts for Hall in WA for just one placing, a nose second to Fay Darling at Bunbury in December 2016.
“Harriet Price was no good, so I retired her,” said Hall. “I said to the owners that we’ve got Alta Christiano here, and we’ll go halves in the foal. High Price is the result, and we now have a weanling full-brother to him.
“High Price is very smart and is right up there with some of the best young horses I have trained,” said Hall.
High Price had impressed in leading and finishing a close second to Free Wheeling in a Byford trial the previous Sunday. Eight minutes before High Price’s Gloucester Park victory Free Wheeling, the $3.20 favourite and driven by Jocelyn Young for trainer Craig Abercromby, set the pace and won over 2100m at Bunbury, beating Like It Love It by two lengths.
Free Wheeling’s victory completed a winning quartet for Young, who was successful earlier on the night with Tiger Royal, Lincoln Joel and Cowboys N Bandits. Deni Roberts was another female driver to have a successful night at the Bunbury meeting. She scored with American Bullitt and Miss Mucho.
Bettorstartdreaming on the way up
New Zealand-bred five-year-old Bettorstartdreaming caused a minor upset when he revealed sparkling gate speed to set the pace and score an effortless victory over the $1.30 favourite Fanci A Dance in the 2130m Fly Like An Eagle Standing At Allwood Stud Pace At Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Bettorstartdreaming, a $10.70 chance, started from the No. 4 barrier before bursting past the polemarker Fanci A Dance to take up the running after 80m. Chris Voak then immediately moved Fanci A Dance off the inside to race in the breeze. But the stout-hearted eight-year-old failed to trouble then pacemaker who was not extended in sprinting over the final quarters in 28.5sec. and 27.8sec.
“On paper, it didn’t look like that we could find the front,” said reinsman Kyle Harper. “He didn’t lead then previous week when they ran a phenomenal lead time (34.4sec.). He popped out into the breeze and ran third. It was a mighty effort.
“Once Bettorstartdreaming crossed Fanci A Dance tonight it was game, set and match. He is certainly in the best form since he arrived in WA. The old man (trainer Lindsay Harper) has done a super job with him, turning his form around. He is showing signs of being a seriously nice horse.
“I didn’t intend going to the front. But ten metres after the start he was just effortless, so I gave him a flick and across he went. He got a nice cheap half early and he just jogged in. He felt like he could have gone another lap. He was impressive and he feels like he is getting better all the time.”
Lindsay Harper agreed with his son’s sentiments, saying: “Once he led and got those easy sectionals (31.7sec. and 31.2sec. for the first two quarters of the final mile) after a smart lead time of 36.2sec. they weren’t going to catch him.”
Bettorstartdreaming, a winner at five of his 18 starts in New Zealand, was purchased early last year for $100,000 by Lindsay Harper, his sister Christine Nash, Louisa Appleton and her daughter Sarah Appleton and Clint Harding.
“He showed good ability in New Zealand when he competed in group 1 events,” said Lindsay Harper. “I gave him one start here (when seventh at Pinjarra in February last year) but he got really sick, and I put him out.
“When I brought him back, he still wasn’t well. He won first-up (at Gloucester Park in August 2020) and I gave him six to eight runs when he wasn’t a real horse. So, we transferred him to Ross Olivieri for a while to get another opinion.
“He had five runs for Ross and ran a couple of good races (two seconds and a fourth). Ross was of the opinion that if we pushed him on, we would wreck him, and he suggested that we give a spell and give him more time to recover fully from whatever illness he had.
“So, we gave him about four months in the paddock before bringing him back, and now he seems a more genuine horse. Hopefully, he gets back to what he was in New Zealand. When we bought him I thought he would make the field of twelve for the WA Pacing Cup.”
Bettorstartdreaming has had only 40 starts and he certainly has excellent potential and has the ability to develop into a Cups horse in the summer. He is the first foal out of Yankee Dream, who earned $277,214 from 15 wins and 18 placings from 56 starts.
Yankee Dream, who won a group 1 event for two-year-old fillies at Alexandra Park in May 2009 and was placed in group 1 events as a three and four-year-old, is a half-sister to Detroit Lily, who finished second to Our major Mama in the WA Oaks at Gloucester Park in May 2018.