Ideal Agent set to deliver
Champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond are poised to land the quinella with brilliant New Zealand-bred five-year-olds Ideal Agent and Double Up in the $50,000 The West Australian Nights of Thunder final at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The geldings, both by American sire American Ideal, were dashing winners of the two qualifying heats last Friday night, and they look set to fight out the finish of the 1730m sprint this week after drawing the two inside barriers.
The Bond camp is the only stable to have provided a quinella result in the 15-year history of the Nights of Thunder, a feat achieved in 2012 when 13/2 chance Ohokas Bondy (barrier six and driven by Colin Brown) charged home from fifth on the home turn to win by a half-length from fast-finishing stablemate and 9/1 chance Dundee Three (barrier seven and driven by Michael George).
Greg Bond also trained 13/2 chance Quick Draw McCaw when he led from barrier five and won the 2008 Nights of Thunder, and Bond and his wife also prepared Ocean Ridge, the $1.80 favourite who led from barrier three with Ryan Warwick in the sulky and won the feature sprint in January 2020 when he defeated Bob Wheel by four lengths and set a race record of a 1.52.6 rate.
There is a strong possibility that this record will be broken this week --- after Ideal Agent rated 1.51.9 in winning his heat by a half-length from the $1.20 favourite Ragazzo Mach, who worked hard for the first 550m before getting to the front and then setting a fast pace.
Ragazzo Mach is a top quality four-year-old, but his prospects in the final diminished after drawing the outside barrier in the field of nine. No horse has won the Nights of Thunder from the outside barrier, even though Davisons Destiny carried the No. 9 saddlecloth when he won the race in 2009 after starting from the No. 7 barrier in the field of nine.
There are no stand-out barriers in the first 15 years of the Nights of Thunder, with barriers two, three and five each providing three winners, with, surprisingly, only two winners from the prized No. 1 barrier --- Lombo Navigator in 2011 and Soho Lennon in 2015.
My selection is Ideal Agent, who will start from the No. 2 barrier, with Warwick resuming as the gelding’s driver this week after attending a family birthday celebration last Friday night.
Dylan Egerton-Green, who handled Ideal Agent last week, will replace Deni Roberts in the sulky behind Double Up, who will start from barrier No. 1. Double Up was an $86 outsider ($126 on the fixed market) when he raced four back on the pegs before sprinting home fast to get up and win from the pacemaker Bettorstartdreaming, rating 1.52.3.
Ideal Agent possesses excellent gate speed which he revealed when setting the pace and winning over 2130m at Gloucester Park in October (rating 1.57.5) and on New Year’s Eve (rating 1.53.5) when he beat Ragazzo Mach by seven lengths. Double Up also has good gate speed, but he is generally regarded as a pacer who excels when held up for a powerful late burst.
Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall snr has won the Nights of Thunder a record five times --- with Teaslby Karita (2007), Hokonui Ben (2013), Soho Lennon (2015), Mohegan Sun (2016) and Benhope Rulz (2019).
He has two runners in Friday night’s race --- Heez Our Perseus (barrier four, Maddison Brown) and The Ideal Touch (barrier six, Gary Hall jnr). The Ideal Touch is racing keenly and is most consistent, but he will need plenty of luck from barrier six.
The four-year-old Katja Warwick-trained Machnificent was unlucky when severely checked approaching the home turn before finishing fourth behind Double Up last Friday night. He is ideally drawn in the final at barrier three and should settle in third place on the pegs.
He is capable of unleashing a brilliant finishing burst and is likely to figure in the finish. He will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, who drove the Ross Olivieri-trained Queen Shenandoah when she trailed the Bond-trained pacemaker Infatuation and finished powerfully to win the Nights of Thunder final by a length and a half from Rocknroll Magic 12 months ago.
Miss Mucho resumes
Promising New Zealand-bred mare Miss Mucho will reappear after a 15-week absence when she begins from the No. 5 barrier in the 2130m Perth Now Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
She possesses sparkling gate speed and can also sprint home with a brilliant burst, and with Ryan Warwick in the sulky she looks hard to beat at her third start in Australia for leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond.
Miss Mucho made a successful Australian debut when she had a tough run in the breeze before defeating Stormyskyes over 2100m at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park in September. But she disappointed at her next outing, at Gloucester Park on October 1 when she began speedily from barrier five, raced without cover and wilted to finish a distant sixth behind Delightfull.
She showed splendid ability at winning easily at her final two starts in New Zealand last June. In a 2600m event restricted to junior drivers at Addington on June 11 she began like a gazelle from barrier six, dashed straight to the front and then took a sit after 450m before bursting to the front on the home turn and sprinting the final 400m in 27.4sec. to win by five and a half lengths from Suzie Rocks, rating 1.58.3.
Eight days after that Miss Mucho started from the outside barrier in a field of six in a 2200m event at Invercargill when she settled down in last place, eight lengths behind the leader Dachy before making a fast move into the breeze after 800m.
She then raced without cover for almost 1000m before getting to the front 350m from home and winning by two and a half lengths from three-year-old Sportswriter filly Boudica.
Her chief rivals on Friday night are expected to be talented six-year-old Sheez Our Hope, a winner at seven of her 16 starts, who will start from the No. 7 barrier, the consistent Newsy, a stablemate of Miss Mucho who is the lone runner on the back line, and Miss Eerie, an easy all-the-way Gloucester Park winner on Tuesday of last week who is favourably drawn at barrier two.
Suvaljko opts for Medieval Man
Ace reinsman Shannon Suvaljko has given punters a valuable lead by choosing to drive Medieval Man in preference to smart mare Alice Kay in The West Australian Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Suvaljko has driven the Katja Warwick-trained Alice Kay at 16 of her past 17 starts for a win, five seconds and four thirds, including a fighting second to Misstiano last Friday night when she set the pace, but was inclined to overrace and wilted in the late stages after final 400m sections of 27.7sec. and 28.3sec.
Alice Kay, placed at her past three starts, will be handled by Michael Grantham, and from the inside of the back line should be assured of a favourable passage.
Medieval Man, prepared by Kiara Davies, is handily drawn at barrier No. 3 on the front line. He has a losing sequence of eleven, including a spirited third behind Shadow Roll and Thereugo over 2130m last Friday night when he began speedily from the No. 7 barrier, raced three wide in the early stages and then in the breeze.
Thereugo, trained and driven by Lindsay Harper, will start from the No. 1 barrier, and should figure in the finish. Thereugo has dashed to the front in the early stages of his past two starts before being restrained to take a trail behind Nota Bene Denario last Friday week and Shadow Roll last Friday night.
Suvaljko will be anxious for Harper to continue with his recent tactics, and he (Suvaljko) would then be able to make a strong bid for the lead. Suvaljko has driven Medieval Man eight times for one second, two thirds and five unplaced efforts.
Carrera Mach, trained by Ross Olivieri and to be driven by Chris Voak, is getting close to a win, and though not favourably drawn at barrier six, he certainly has winning prospects.
Suvaljko has bright prospects of winning the opening event, the 2130m Channel 7 Pace, in which he will drive the Michael Young-trained Orlando Blue, who has been successful at his past four outings in which he has set the pace.
Orlando Blue led from the No. 1 barrier last Friday night and fought on grimly to beat Dont Bother Me None by a half-head over 2536m, with final 400m sections of 27.1sec. and 28.5sec. This week he will start from the No. 5 barrier, and it is problematical whether he will be able to set the pace, considering that the speedy frontrunner Pradason is ideally drawn at the No. 1 barrier for trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo.
Pradason began speedily from barrier four last Friday night when he raced without cover for the first 400m and then enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before fighting on to finish a sound fifth, three lengths behind Orlando Blue.
Wonderful To Fly is ready
Wonderful To Fly, the State’s outstanding two-year-old filly in 2021, is fit and ready to make an impressive start to her three-year-old campaign when she resumes racing in the www.TheWest.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Part-owned, trained and driven by Shane Young, Wonderful To Fly has the ability to overcome the outside barrier (No. 9) over the 1730m sprint trip.
The winner at nine of her 16 starts last year, Wonderful To Fly ran a splendid trial at Pinjarra on Wednesday of last week. She was drawn on the outside of the front line and was out of position at the start before settling down in sixth place, about six lengths from the leader Dunamis.
She was still sixth at the bell and then she met with interference and lost a couple of lengths at the 950m. She then made up a lot of ground and went three wide on the home turn to finish strongly to be a close third behind Sovrana and Taking The Miki.
Taking The Miki also was checked at the 950m before finishing strongly, and she and Wonderful To Fly are sure to be prominent in Friday night’s race in which Taking the Miki (trained by Ross Olivieri and to be driven by Chris Voak) will start out wide at barrier eight.
Drawn inside of Taking the Miki and Wonderful To Fly are several smart fillies, including Beyond The Sea, Sonic Suzy, Dontbesillychilli, Sport Sport Sport, Make Your Mark and Jolted Charm.
Beyond The Sea, to be driven by Kyle Harper for trainer Murray Lindau, is in top form, having led and won convincingly at her past two starts, both over 2130m at Gloucester Park and from barriers three and one. She will start from the No. 6 barrier on Friday night.
Sonic Suzy, trained by Ron Huston and to be driven by Gary Hall jnr, will have admirers from her favourable barrier at No. 1. She warmed up for the race with a sound trial win over 2150m at Byford on Sunday morning.
Several Fremantle Cup hopefuls will contest the $25,000 Ray Duffy Memorial over 2536m, with champion trainer Gary Hall snr holding a strong hand with Chicago Bull (Gary Hall jnr, barrier six) and Wildwest (Callan Suvaljko, barrier two).
Motu Premier is favourably drawn at barrier one and Chris Voak is likely to take advantage of the draw by using the nine-year-old gelding’s excellent gate speed to advantage in a bid to hold the lead from likely challengers Wildwest and Hampton Banner (barrier four).