Flametree pleases Mitch Miller
Flametree recorded a considerably slower time in winning her heat of the Diamond Classic than the gross times of the other heat winners Jackie Daniels and Zephyra, but that is not affecting the confidence of her reinsman Mitch Miller as he plans to set the pace in the group 1 $100,000 TABtouch Diamond Classic at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Flametree, prepared at Busselton by Barry Howlett, has drawn barrier one and Miller said that he was not concerned that the filly led and won her heat on Tuesday of last week when she ran the 2130m trip in 2min. 44.8sec. and rated 2.4.5 which was much slower than the times recorded by Jackie Daniels (2.40.9 at a 2.1.5 rate) and Zephyra (2.41.2 at a 2.1.8 rate).
“Heat times are not the bee all and end all,” said Miller. “In her heat I was quite happy to let Flametree flop around and do what she wanted. When she came out of the gate and was settled and relaxed, I was happy for her to stay that way.
“She went to the line with the plugs in. The blinkers were off, and it was the first time she had been in a race without any head gear on, and with an open bridle I had to tap her up a couple of times up the straight just to keep her mind on the job. She had plenty left.
“I think there will be plenty of pressure on early in Friday night’s race, and I’m not expecting her to get it all her own way. Zephyra looked very smart in her heat when she did everything right and zipped home pretty quick.
“Barrier draws are definitely to my advantage, but I have a lot of respect for a few of Flametree’s rivals. Plan A will be to lead.”
Jackie Daniels, trained and driven by Brett Smith, faces a difficult task from out wide at barrier No. 8, while Zephyra, trained and driven by Dylan Egerton-Green, is a talented filly who appears certain to fight out the finish and prove hard to beat.
Zephyra will start from barrier seven, and Egerton-Green said: “I give her a good push. And the draw is only a starting position. I take no notice of times run in the heats, and I give my filly a great chance. Her work has been good since her heat win, and she has been happy in the paddock.”
Egerton-Green is hoping to go oner better in the Diamond Classic, after having to be content with finishing second with Star For Me behind Always An Angel two years ago.
Zephyra was bred and is part-owned by Jesse Moore, who owned and trained her dam Tricky Styx, who was driven to victory by Aiden de Campo in the 2014 Diamond Classic when she beat Soho Tokyo by a head.
Nathan Turvey, who trained and drove Bethany Aitch to victory in the 2015 Diamond Classic (run over 1609m at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park track), will handle Bunbury trainer Terry Keenan’s promising filly Spiritofanangel (barrier three), while Ryan Warwick (American Monarch) and Kim Prentice (Our Lililou) also will be seeking their second success in the Diamond Classic.
Warwick won the race last year with the Greg and Skye Bond-trained In The Spotlight, and Prentice trained and drove Eagle Rox to an easy all-the-way victory over stablemate Bettor Dreams in 2012.
De Campo, who has fond memories of Tricky Styx’s win in 2014, prepares two of the runners in Friday night’s race --- American Monarch and Magnolia Peart (Trent Wheeler).
“I think American Monarch (barrier No. 11) will improve on her first-up third behind Flametree in a heat, and if things go her way, she’s a decent each-way chance,” said de Campo. “Magnolia Pearl was a first-up third to Zephyra but is likely to struggle from barrier nine.”
Hall tips Gambit
“He will lead and win,” was the confident prediction of champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr when assessing the prospects of Gambit in the $30,000 Mia and Macy Joss Free-For-All at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Gambit, trained by Hall’s father Gary, will start from the prized No. 1 barrier at his second start after a spell, following his first-up last placing in a field of nine behind Jumpingjackmac last Friday week.
“He drew badly (No. 6) last week when he went back at the start and sat last,” said Hall jnr. “He is working really well, and I might be wrong, but I’d be surprised if Lavra Joe (outside barrier in the field of six) could beat Gambit, who gets out of the gate really good.”
Gambit, a New Zealand-bred six-year-old, has won at 12 of his 40 starts, including victories at his final three appearances before going for a spell when in successive weeks in February he defeated Arma Einstein, Double Up and Mighty Ronaldo.
Lavra Joe has returned to racing after a 13-month absence in good fashion, with wins over Typhoon Banner and Beat City followed by a fourth behind Jumpingjackmac and a last-start second to Vultan Tin last Friday night when he finished with a solid burst from sixth and last at the bell.
Apart from Gambit, the powerful Hall stable will be represented by Will I Rocknroll (barrier two) and Diego (five). Will I Rocknroll, to be driven by Stuart McDonald, has won at his past two starts, while Diego (Maddison Brown) is in splendid form with an all-the-way win over Chicago Bull and a good third behind Jumpingjackmac and Chicago Bull at his past two starts.
Five-year-old Jaspervellabeach has started from the No. 1 barrier at Gloucester Park four times for three all-the-way victories, and when the gelding drew the inside barrier for the 2130m WA Harness Racing Owners Association Pace it delighted trainer Gary Elson.
Jaspervellabeach has managed just one placing, a third behind The Kraken three starts ago, from his past eight starts, but he should prove very hard to beat on Friday night when Emily Suvaljko will be aiming to set the pace in a bid to record the pacer’s 14TH victory.
Symington gets his chance
Star three-year-old Swingband is one of talented reinsman Michael Grantham’s favourite pacers, but he has failed in a bid to handle the Ryan Bell-trained gelding in the $20,250 Noah and Cruz George Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
This left up-and-coming 20-year-old Kyle Symington the opportunity to drive Swingband for the first time in a race.
Grantham has driven Swingband at his past eleven starts for seven wins, one second, two thirds and a retired performance after breaking into a gallop. Grantham received a 16-day suspension for causing interference with Swingband last Friday week, and he was disappointed when his application for a three-day reduction of the penalty was denied.
“This will give Kyle a chance to drive Swingband this week,” said Bell. “He does as much work with Swingband at home as I do.”
Swingband, a winner at ten of his 16 starts, automatically drew the outside barrier (No. 9) under the preferential barrier conditions of the race.
“It’s an awkward draw, but I can’t fault Swingband, and I expect him to be hard to beat,” said Bell. “He has come on from his first-up run (a victory over The Miki Taker and Tricky Miki) extremely well. And he will benefit further from this week’s run.”
Capel trainer Aiden de Campo’s two runners, The Miki Taker (barrier three on the back line) and Floewriter (barrier No. 8) are among the State’s best three-year-olds and will provide Swingband with plenty of opposition.
De Campo, who is serving a brief suspension, has engaged Stuart McDonald to drive Floewriter and Trent Wheeler to handle The Miki Taker, who is part-owned by Wheeler’s wife Emily.
“Both Floewriter and The Miki Taker can play a part if they get the right run,” said de Campo. “Floewriter is going really well, and I’ve been happy with his first two runs since a spell, while The Miki Taker’s first two runs after resuming from a spell have been good.”
Floewriter, who has excellent gate speed and is capable of bursting to an early lead from his wide barrier, has won at ten of his 19 starts. He dashed to an early lead from barrier six and went on to win easily over 2242m at Narrogin last Saturday night. He burst to the front after 600m and set the pace before winning from Longreach Bay at Pinjarra at his previous outing, his first appearance for five months.
The Miki Taker has won at eight of his 17 starts. He ran on strongly from last in a field of six to get up and win first-up from Onesmartfella over 2100m at Bunbury on July 27 before he finished strongly when second to Swingband at Gloucester Park last Friday week.
Maungatahi is favourably drawn at barrier one, and trainer-reinsman Dylan Egerton-Green gives the colt a good chance. “He is a nice horse and is honest as the day is long, and I think he will run a mighty race,” said Egerton-Green.
Eighteen Carat set for another feature win
For a pacer to win two group 3 feature events in the space of eight days is no mean feat. But that’s what outstanding young trainer Michael Young is confident of achieving at Gloucester Park on Friday night when Eighteen Carat contests the $30,000 Retravision Pace.
The New Zealand-bred five-year-old was not extended in winning the $30,000 WASBA feature event for mares last Friday night, and Young is predicting a repeat performance this week when Eighteen Carat starts from barrier six.
“I’m very confident,” said Young. “She will push forward and will either lead and win or race in the breeze and win. Bad luck is likely to be the only danger.”
Gary Hall jnr, who has driven Eighteen Carat at her four Australian starts, all over 2130m at Gloucester Park, for three wins and a third placing, had no hesitation in choosing to drive her this week in preference to smart four-year-old Platinum Sparkle.
Hall drove Platinum Sparkle at her most recent appearance when the mare scored an easy all-the-way victory in the group 3 Lombardo Pace eight weeks ago. Justin Prentice, who trains Platinum Sparkle, will drive the former Victorian performer, who is awkwardly drawn at barrier seven.
Boosting Young’s confidence is the fact that smart four-year-olds Sahara Storm and American Arma will start from the back line. The Colin Brown-trained American Arma has been off the scene for nine weeks, with her five most recent starts being at Gloucester Park in May and June for four wins and a third placing.
Sahara Storm, trained and driven by Nathan Turvey, raced on the pegs in third place when a sound third behind Eighteen Carat last Friday night --- after setting the pace and scoring an easy victory over Mister Ardee at her previous outing.
Young’s only other runner at the meeting is Plutonium, who will be driven by Hall from out wide at barrier eight in the Kiara, Michael and Joseph @ Young Pacing Pace and will be attempting to notch his third win from three starts after returning to racing after an injury-enforced absence of 13 months.
Plutonium was untroubled to set the pace from barrier one and score an effortless victory at a 1.56.5 rate last Friday night. A week earlier, Plutonium enjoyed an ideal passage in the one-out, one-back position before winning easily from Fanci A Dance over 2536m.
This week Plutonium will clash with noted frontrunner Al Guerrero, who is likely to be all the rage after drawing barrier two in the 2536m event.
Hall, the State’s leading driver, has excellent prospects of ending the nine-event program on a winning note when he handles the Justin Prentice-trained Mr Fantastic in the 2536m Team Bond and The Running Camel Pace.
Mr Fantastic, a New Zealand-bred gelding by Bettors Delight, will start from barrier six in the field of seven and should carry too many guns for his rivals. He has won at ten of his 22 starts, including three wins from his five appearances as a four-year-old this year.
He started from barrier eight and raced in ninth position before running home solidly to finish sixth behind Socrates in the group 2 San Simeon Pace last Friday week, a week after he sustained a powerful burst from the rear to win the group 3 John Higgins Memorial.
“His work has been really good, so I expect him to run a good race,” said Prentice.
Hall’s difficult choice
Champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr left Gloucester Park on Tuesday night pondering the extremely difficult decision he faces next week when he must make a choice between Never Ending and Valedictorian as his drive in the $100,000 group 1 Pearl Classic for two-year-olds on Friday week.
Hall and trainer Justin Prentice combined to win the three qualifying heats on Tuesday evening with Never Ending, Valedictorian and Rolling Fire. Valedictorian covered the 2130m in 2min.35.8sec. (a rate of 1.57.7) and Never Ending and Rolling Fire each recorded a gross time of 2.35.9 and a rate of 1.57.8.
Hall admitted that his choice would lie between Never Ending and Valedictorian. “I didn’t pull the plugs on either horse, and if they both draw to start in the middle of the line, at four, five or six, and the front wasn’t there (for the taking) it will be a very hard choice,” he said.
“I doubt whether either one could come around the other and beat him. Even with a better draw in the final I don’t think that Rolling Fire could beat Valedictorian or Never Ending.
“Never Ending went great, but Valedictorian was huge; he did it so easily.”
Never Ending started from the back line in his heat and Hall eased him off the pegs immediately after the start. He settled down in seventh position before Hall sent him forward, three wide, to move to the breeze outside Soho Firestone. Then Never Ending burst to the front 850m from home and dashed away to win by 10m from Soho Firestone.
Valedictorian raced in the one-out, one-back position in the second qualifying heat before he sprinted fast to overhaul the pacemaker Crowd Control 220m from home and coast to victory by 5m over that gelding.
Hall then produced a magical drive to land Rolling Fire a superb winner over Dourado. Rolling Fire settled in eighth position in the one-wide line in the field of nine, and he was still eighth at the bell before Hall followed Rocket City’s three-wide run with 600m to travel.
“Rocket City left me for dead a bit, and I then went back to his inside (in the one-wide line),” said Hall. “Soon after that the horse three back on the pegs (Road Star) dropped out and I was able to get on to the back of Fess Up, who was going forward (in the one-wide line).
“I could’ve gone wide (approaching the home turn), but at that stage I was only looking at finishing second or third to qualify for the final. I also noticed that Hotly Pursued (the leader) was running up the track, so I got back to the inside.”
Hotly Pursued drifted out in the home straight and Hall was able to send Rolling Fire through on his inside to dash to the front 60m from the finish.