Minstrel out to follow the Money
Champion trainer Greg Bond has fond memories of his first runner in a Fremantle Cup --- Money Magnet on January 13, 2006 --- when the six-year-old Fake Left gelding drew the No. 1 barrier in the 2907m standing-start race and was driven to an all-the-way victory by Colin Brown.
Bond and his wife Skye, last season’s WA premier trainers, have four runners in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night and Bond has high hopes of history repeating itself with stable star Minstrel drawing the prized No. 1 barrier in the 2536m mobile event.
“Minstrel has very good gate speed, if you want it,” said Bond, indicating that the New Zealand-bred five-year-old was capable of winning the start, setting the pace and emerging triumphant.
Minstrel has begun from barrier one only once in his 17 starts in Western Australia, when he led and won easily from Perfect Major, rating 1.55.6 over 2130m last August. At his next start, a month later, Minstrel began from barrier three, set the pace and finished second to Magnificent Storm over 2130m.
Bond explained that he and Brown had devised a plan for Money Magnet in the 2006 Cup, saying: “Colin and I spoke about what sort of lead time we needed to run if he led. We didn’t want to go too slow, which would invite pressure, and we didn’t want to go too fast.
“We nailed the lead time to a tenth of a second, and it was exactly where we wanted to be. Money Magnet (an 8/1 chance) was not considered a real threat, and he was left alone a bit. The race was a bit tactical with some of the runners, and we got it a bit cheap in front --- and we were able to take advantage of that.”
Bond said that he and Skye would discuss tactics with the drivers of their four Cup runners on Friday night --- Ryan Warwick (Minstrel), Vampiro (Dylan Egerton-Green), Mighty Conqueror (Brown) and Patronus Star (Deni Roberts).
“We will digest things during the week and have a chat,” he said. “The drivers have got to drive in what is the best interests for the horse.”
Minstrel, a winner at 14 of his 28 starts, in a race in which the 12 runners have recorded a total of 254 wins and 161 placings for earnings of $6,449,452, last appeared last Friday week when he started from the back line in the group 2 Cranley Memorial over 2130m.
He settled down in fourth position before dashing to the front with 1150m to travel. The final three 400m sections were run in 28.5sec., 28.2sec. and 27.4sec. and Vampiro, who had led from the No. 5 barrier before surrendering the lead to Minstrel, then enjoyed the sit behind his stablemate before finishing fast to get up and win by a half-length from Minstrel, setting a track record of a 1.52.6 rate.
Vampiro is favourably drawn at barrier three on Friday night, and harness racing fans will be watching eagerly to see whether Egerton-Green will urge the eight-year-old forward at the start in a bid for the lead.
Bond said that Minstrel and Vampiro were the stable’s favoured runners. “Minstrel has probably been our No. 1 seed all along,” he said. “Vampiro ran a great race to beat Minstrel last Friday week and I’d say they’re our best two.
“All our Cup horses are in good shape and the hot weather has not affected them. They have spent a lot of time at the beach. Everything has gone according to plan for us and we’re just hoping to have them cherry ripe on Friday night.
“The draws make it a bit tough for Patronus Star (barrier six) and Mighty Conqueror (barrier eight). Patronus Star is a nice railing horse in this grade. He probably won’t get involved early; he will probably be driven in his usual pattern, and that’s sit-sprint.
“The wide draw makes it tough for Mighty Conqueror. He started hitting a wheel at his latest start and overraced back in the pack. Colin (Brown) thought he was in a bit of pain, but he actually picked up the bit and ran home when the run came (finishing seventh behind Vampiro).”
Bond predicted that the hardest for Minstrel to beat were Magnificent Storm and Chicago Bull, saying: “I’ve had a great deal of time for Magnificent Storm; he is a wonderful animal. Chicago Bull is a great horse from a very good camp, and he can never be underestimated. There are not too many pacers who win two million bucks.”
Nine-year-old Chicago Bull notched his 62ND win when he had a tough run in the breeze before finishing with great determination to beat the pacemaker Motu Premier over 2536m last Friday night. He has won the Fremantle Cup in 2017 and again in November 2020 when he raced without cover for much of the way before easily defeating Galactic Star and Shockwave.
Chicago Bull will start from barrier No. 4, with Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall snr, seeking his eleventh Fremantle Cup victory, saying: “It looked a good draw until Minstrel drew one.”
Champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr said: “Chicago Bull is as good as we can have him. He looks the best he has ever looked and he feels good in himself, and he could be better after his win last week.”
Hall snr will also be represented by Balcatherine (barrier three on the back line), Diego (barrier five) and Wildwest (barrier seven). “The draws will make it tough for all of them,” said Hall.
Mt Helena trainer Ray Williams said that Magnificent Storm, a winner at 19 of his 23 starts, was fit and ready to run a big race. “Drawing barrier nine is not ideal, but he’s a nice horse,” he said.
“We didn’t get luck in the draw, so we hope to get some in the race. I’m happy with the horse and the draw is what it is. There’s no problem with his fitness, and we know his ability. It’s now a matter of having a look at the field and see how we will drive him.
“Robbie (Tomlinson) and some of the other owners will talk with Aldo (driver Aldo Cortopassi) and we will work out a plan.”
Magnificent Storm will be the first Fremantle Cup runner for the 76-year-old Williams, who would dearly love to win on Friday night to join his son Grant and late father-in-law Fred Doy as a trainer of a Fremantle Cup winner. Grant Williams prepared Shardons Aflyin for his win in 2007, and Doy trained and drove Ell Boom for his Cup victory in 1965.
Eight-time WA premier trainer Ross Olivieri has won the Fremantle Cup with Speedy Cheval in 1991 and John Albert in 1995. He is pinning his faith this year with Perfect Major, who will start from the No. 2 barrier on the back line and will be driven by Chris Voak.
Perfect Major, a winner of 18 races, has a losing sequence of ten and will be at long odds. But Olivieri is upbeat about the six-year-old’s prospects, saying: “It’s probably the third best draw we could’ve hoped for. We have freshened him up and his work today (Tuesday) was exceptional.”
Owner Albert Walmsley is happy with Bletchley Park’s draw at barrier two and said he expected the Victorian-bred six-year-old to bounce back to top form after being unplaced at his past three starts.
“Stephen (trainer Stephen Reed) said that Bletchley Park had got away from him at his past couple of starts,” said Walmsley. “But he now has got him back on track. He has been galloping on the beach and wades in the water.
“Bletchley Park has won three Free-For-Alls during his current preparation of eight starts, and one of those was the group 2 RWWA Cup four starts ago.” Bletchley Park trailed the pacemaker Vampiro when fourth behind Chicago Bull in the Fremantle Cup in November 2020.
Maddison Brown will drive Hurricane Harley for trainer Justin Prentice, and the six-year-old will start from the inside of the back line and should enjoy a soft passage before sprinting home strongly.
De Campo opts for The Miki Taker
Floewriter is in devastating form for Capel trainer Aiden de Campo, who has given punters a valuable lead by choosing to drive The Miki Taker in preference to Floewriter in the $18,000 Retravision Online Pace for three-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
De Campo has driven Floewriter to brilliant wins in fast times at three of his past four starts at Gloucester Park. He has engaged Dylan Egerton-Green to handle Floewriter, who will start at the No. 5 barrier in the field of ten.
Floewriter began speedily from barrier eight when he set the pace and sprinted over the final 800m in 56.6sec. to win from the Justin Prentice-trained Tricky Miki at a 1.56.9 rate over 2130m last Friday week.
A week earlier he started from barrier eight and was seventh with 550m to travel before sprinting fast to win convincingly from Maungatahi at a 1.55.4 rate over 1730m.
The Miki Taker, who will start from the No. 3 barrier, reappeared after a six-month absence in a 2265m event at Albany last Saturday week. He raced without cover early and then set the pace on the way to an easy three-length victory over Fleur Du Marquis. That was his fourth win from eight starts.
“He has improved a lot since the Albany run,” said de Campo. “I took him there pretty much for a trial, and he has really sharpened up since that run. He will run a good race on Friday night. He is a group 1 winner. He sat in the breeze and went 1.57.7 over 2130m (when he won the $100,000 Pearl Classic last June).
The clash between The Miki Taker, Floewriter, Tricky Miki and the promising Swingband should provide plenty of fireworks, with The Miki Taker having the initial advantage, having drawn the prized No. 1 barrier.
“Tricky Miki has got pretty good gate speed and I’ll be aiming to lead,” said Gary Hall jnr. “He and Mighty Ronaldo look to be my best drives on the night.”
Hall chose to drive the Prentice-trained Mighty Ronaldo in preference to Sir Galahad, Will I Rocknroll, Nota Bene Denario and Alta Intrigue, four pacers trained by Gary Hall snr.
Mighty Ronaldo resumed after a nine-month absence last Friday week when he was involved in a nasty scrimmage on the home turn in a heat of the Nights Of Thunder. Mighty Ronaldo was severely checked and he finished seventh, 111 metres behind the winner Double Up.
“Forget that seventh,” said Hall jnr. “It should have been a win. He was going to win easily. Mighty Ronaldo has the potential to be one of the best horses racing here, provided he keeps progressing like he is.
“If I wasn’t driving Mighty Ronaldo, I would be driving Sir Galahad. He is a really good frontrunner and I think he will be the hardest to beat.”
Sir Galahad, an eight-year-old who has won at eleven of his 22 starts, will start from the No. 1 barrier and will be handled by Callan Suvaljko at his first appearance for eight months.
Chris Lewis will drive Will I Rocknroll, Michael Grantham has been engaged for Nota Bene Denario, and Deni Roberts will be in the sulky behind impressive last-start winner Alta Intrigue.
Apart from Mighty Ronaldo and Tricky Miki, Hall will drive Rocknroll Lincoln and Bettor Get It On for Prentice.
Rocknroll Lincoln will start from barrier two in the 2536m Joe and Margaret Petricevich Memorial Fremantle Cup Consolation over 2536m. The eight-year-old is favourably drawn at barrier two and should fight out the finish at his fourth appearance after a two-year absence.
“He has got better with every run this preparation,” said Hall. “I expect Al Guerrero will lead from barrier one, from Hampton Banner, and we will probably drop in behind Al Guerrero, and then work things out from there.”
The Ross Olivieri-trained Papinik (barrier four) will be popular with punters, and he is capable of a bold effort. “I am disappointed Papinik missed out on a start in the Fremantle Cup, but I can understand it,” said Olivieri.
Papinik rated 1.55 when he set the pace and won easily from Golden State and Al Guerrero over 2130m last Friday week to record his twelfth win from 18 starts. “He won in arguably the best conditioned field that has ever been,” said Olivieri. “That field was good enough to be a Free-For-All field from March to October.
“If he doesn’t win or go very close, then we would have been ay off thinking he should have been in the Fremantle Cup field. If he does win or go close, then maybe he is deserving of a chance in the WA Pacing Cup a fortnight later. So, I’m looking forward to the race because it will be a good test.”
Suvaljko’s tough choice
Shannon Suvaljko is driving in dashing form, and he has given punters a strong lead by opting to handle Medieval Man in preference to Angel In White in the 2130m Retravision.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
He drove both pacers to smart victories last Friday night and he admitted it was a tough decision to drive the Kiara Davies-trained Medieval Man, who is handily drawn at barrier three, with Angel In White, to be handled by Suvaljko’s daughter Emily, somewhat awkwardly drawn at barrier six.
“I was influenced by a better barrier,” said Shannon Suvaljko. “And I drive a lot for Kiara and her partner Michael Young.”
Suvaljko is keen to set the pace with Medieval Man. But much will depend on whether the polemarker The Kraken, a smart beginner and noted frontrunner, sets the pace or whether Gary Hall jnr opts to take a sit.
Angel In White was most impressive when she set a fast pace and rated 1.55.7 in winning by almost three lengths from Billy Mack over 2130m last Friday night. Whether she races as keenly when coming from behind remains to be seen.
Sheez Our Hope (barrier seven) and Mirragon (eight) cannot be left out of calculations. Both pacers a smart sit-sprinters.
Shannon Suvaljko and Young have excellent prospects in the RAC Members Save 5% Every Day at Retravision Handicap with the 30m backmarker Beat City, whose nine start this preparation have produced four wins and four second placings.
The five-year-old Beat City also started off 30m in a 2503m stand last Friday night when he finished second to Triroyale Brigade. Beat City raced in the breeze for much of the journey before taking the lead 375m from home.
“Beat City’s second last week was his best run, and Michael agreed,” said Suvaljko. “I wasn’t planning to be in the breeze, but that’s the way it panned out. Dont Bother Me None should be suited off the front and will be hard to beat.”