Gloucester Park Review Friday 17 March 2023

20 March 2023 | Ken Casellas

Diego’s $600,775 harvest

Diego’s spectacular burst of form knows no bounds, and the New Zealand-bred seven-year-old continued his triumphant march towards the $1 million Nullarbor Slot race on April 14 with another superb victory at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he outpaced his rivals in the $50,000 Aaron Bain Racing Governor’s Cup.

Diego, who is prepared by Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall snr, has amassed $600,775 in prizemoney from six wins and two thirds from his past eight starts.

Once again, Diego was driven perfectly by Maddison Brown for the gelding’s New Zealand breeders and owners Syd and Shona Brown. The son of champion sire Bettors Delight was the $2.50 favourite and he was not seriously challenged on his way to winning by just over a length from $19 chance Sangue Reale, with Minstrel ($3.90) a fighting third.

Sangue Reale started from the No. 1 barrier and led for the first 100m before Brown sent Diego to the front after starting from barrier three. Minstrel began from barrier five and raced three wide in the first lap before racing in the breeze.

Diego dashed over the final 400m sections in 28sec. and 27.8sec. and rated 1.56.2 over the 2130m journey. His past eight starts have included other major feature events, the group 1 WA Pacing Cup, the group 2 Stratton Cup and the group 3 Pinjarra Cup, and he now has earned $722,759 from 23 wins and 20 placings from 79 starts.

“I was coming out of the gate only as much as I had to in order to hold Minstrel at bay,” said Brown. “And Diego bounced out super. I got to the front a lot easier than I thought I would. He switched off and relaxed in front, which I was hoping he would. I didn’t want to rev him up too much, making sure he had something left in the tank at the end.

“I wanted to catch a break on Minstrel around the (home) bend, so that’s what I did, and Diego was going pretty easy on the line.”

Minstrel’s effort was full of merit, while other Nullarbor candidates Magnificent Storm ($11) and Lavra Joe ($31) performed strongly. Magnificent Storm started from the outside barrier (No. 9) and was restrained to the rear and was still last approaching the home turn before finishing powerfully. He was blocked for a clear run and finished a close-up seventh.

Lavra Joe raced three back on the pegs before getting into the clear 250m from home and finishing strongly, three wide, to be an excellent third.

Steel The Show is a rising star

New Zealand-bred six-year-old Steel The Show improved his Australian record to four starts for four effortless victories when he was not extended in scoring an easy win in the $22,000 Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Starting a hot $1.30 favourite from barrier five, Steel The Show burst to the front after 75m and coasted to victory by a length over the fast-finishing $20 chance Talks Up A Storm, rating 1.57.2 over 2130m, with final quarters of 28.7sec. and 28.5sec.

The win completed a double for driver Deni Roberts and was the second leg of a treble for leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond.

“We have a lot of time for Steel The Show, and he is definitely an open company horse,” said Greg Bond. “He probably proved that in New Zealand where he has done a fair bit of racing (44 starts for six wins, nine seconds and six thirds) and he finished fourth in a New Zealand Cup (behind Copy That in a field of 15 in a 3200m stand at Addington in November 2021).

“The way the system is over there, he was always racing against open company, and to his credit he was always close up, with thirds and fourths, and did win races.

“He has now had a few runs for us and has shown no signs of feeling any duress. We will probably run him in a Free-For-All shortly and test him there and see what he does. That will give us a guide. I’d like to think he’s a Cups horse at the end of this year. That’s the feel he gives us, and hopefully he delivers.

“Regarding our starter in the Nullarbor, we will make that decision probably the weekend before the race. At the time we will make a decision between Patronus Star and Minstrel, and if Steel The Show steps up he will be in the conversation.

“Probably, it’s Minstrel where we’re heading. He’s our proven Free-For-All performer and is probably our No. 1 seed. We’re happy with him, and he never gives it away. His was a great run (third behind Diego) tonight.”

Dont Bother Me None turns the corner

Burly pacer Dont Bother Me None lost his way last year and he had a losing sequence of 15 four weeks ago when he broke through for an overdue win.

The New Zealand-bred five-year-old has followed that with two more wins and an unlucky second, with his most recent success coming at Gloucester Park on Friday night when Deni Roberts guided him to a convincing victory in the 2130m $23,750 Pace.

Dont Bother Me None, prepared by champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond, was the $1.40 favourite from the No. 1 barrier. However, he was beaten for early speed by $8.50 chance Will I Rocknroll, who started from the No. 4 barrier, dashed to the front and led for the first 300m before Roberts sent Dont Bother Me None into the lead.   

 Dont Bother Me None sprinted over the final quarters in 28.6sec. and 28.1sec. and won by 5m from Will I Rocknroll, rating 1.56.8. Dont Bother Me None has raced exclusively in Western Australia and now has earned $150,865 from 16 wins and 11 placings from 42 starts.

“He has really turned the corner,” said Greg Bond. “We had a few little issues with him; nothing major, and we were probably looking after him a bit too much. So, we decided to treat him like a normal horse and stepped up his workload right up, and since that he hasn’t looked back.

“He is now doing what we thought he would’ve done 12 months ago when we thought he was a Nugget horse. But he just didn’t come up. So, about two months ago we changed tack with him and he has shown us exactly what he can do.

Dont Bother Me None is a bit of a gross horse, and with his increased workload he has changed his attitude, and maybe his fitness level is now where it needs to be. He’s jumping out of his skin at home and we will press on with him and see where he gets to.”

Petulant filly gets the job done

Promising filly Xceptional Arma was irritable and in a sullen mood before the final event, the Bridge Bar Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Her antics delayed the start by several minutes before she settled down and set the pace on her way to scoring a 10-metre victory.

There were only five runners in the 1730m event for two-year-old fillies. But the start was aborted after Xceptional Arma refused to score up, leaving the stewards with the decision to abandon the score-up because they were not satisfied that Xceptional Arma had not fully cleared the track half-way down the back straight.

Earlier, veteran trainer-reinsman Colin Brown was given permission to remove the lugging pole after Xceptional Arma was in a cantankerous mood after completing her preliminary. However, the filly was extremely fractious in the score-up, giving Brown a torrid time as he fought to control her.

Finally, the race got under way, and punters who had supported Xceptional Arma, the $1.20 favourite, breathed a sigh of relief when Brown got her away smartly from the No. 1 barrier to burst straight to the front.

It was then a precession as Xceptional Arma bowled along in front and coasted to an easy victory over $9.50 chance Rock Rosie Rock, who ran from last at the bell.

Xceptional Arma has raced three times for a win and two seconds for stakes of $29,633. She is by American Ideal and is the fifth foal out of Arma Xpress, who had 18 starts for 12 wins, one placing and stakes of $279,890.

Xceptional Arma is a full-sister to American Arma (32 starts for ten wins, 11 placings and $148,236) and Arma Xfactor (24 starts for five wins, four placings and $47,255. She is also a half-sister to Arma Veyron (144 starts for 11 wins, 30 placings and $74,800).

Long-term plans for Xceptional Arma include the $225,000 Westbred Classic for two-year-old fillies on September 15.

Dominus Factum loves to lead

Victorian-bred five-year-old Dominus Factum resumed after a four-month absence in fine style when trainer Aiden de Campo drove the $1.50 favourite to a comfortable all-the-way victory in the 1730m Summit Bloodstock Reach the Peak Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.  

Dominus Factum, who had disappointed when unplaced at his previous six starts before being sent for a spell, is a noted frontrunner and 13 of his 16 wins have been when he has set the pace.

He was purchased by Andrew de Campo for $19,000 as a yearling in Melbourne and has proved a bargain for his team of owners, earning $137,438 from 16 wins and 11 placings from 49 starts.

“The plan was to use his gate speed and lead,” said Aiden de Campo. “I’m not quite sure why his form deteriorated towards the end of his previous campaign. He had a few little issues but nothing serious. Maybe he had had enough.”

Dominus Factum gave his rivals little hope when he sprinted over the final 800m in 56.8sec. and he won by 4m at a 1.55.4 rate from $26 chance Bettorstartdreaming, who fought on doggedly after racing in the breeze. You Fly With Me ($4.20) raced three back on the pegs in fifth position before finishing solidly into third place.

Aussie Scooter an Easter Cup hope

West Australian-bred gelding Aussie Scooter is emerging as an excellent prospect for the $50,000 Easter Cup on April 7 following another splendid performance in winning the 2503m Join ABR And Summit At The Nullarbor Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

He is the State’s outstanding standing-start pacer and will be suited by the 2503m Easter Cup, which is a standing-start feature event.

Aussie Scooter has contested stands at 13 of his past 14 starts for six wins, four seconds, two thirds and one fourth to improve his career record to 51 starts for 15 wins, 14 placings and stakes of $159,715.

He was the $7.90 third favourite on Friday night when he began from the 20m mark. He got away smoothly for Kyle Symington and settled down in sixth position while his stablemate and $1.45 favourite Raven Banner had galloped off the front line and lost about 25 metres. Raven Banner quickly made up lost ground and he raced without cover before moving to the outside of the leader Arden Velocity in the middle stages.

Symington was happy for Aussie Scooter to follow Raven Banner, who eventually took a narrow lead 400m from home before Symington dashed Aussie Scooter to the front 100m later. Aussie Scooter scored by a half-length from $71 outsider Alfa Prince, who was eighth at the bell before finishing strongly, out three wide. The 30m backmarker James Butt ($19) came from sixth at the bell to finish third, with Raven Banner wilting to sixth.

Simply Shaz thrives on racing

Bonny mare Simply Shaz is thriving on a diet of non-stop racing. At Gloucester Park on Friday night she lined up for her 42ND start in the past 13 months when she began from the outside of the back line in the 2130m Aaron Bain Racing Thank You To Our Owners Pace.

She was a $10.70 chance from her awkward draw, with noted frontrunner Miss Boudica the $1.95 favourite from the prized No. 1 barrier.

And then talented Collie reinsman Trent Wheeler produced a superb performance in the sulky to land Simply Shaz a decisive winner, bringing the New Zealand-bred five-year-old home with a spirited three-wide burst from sixth position with 400m to travel to win by just under a length from the $4.20 second fancy Nullarbor Navajo, with Miss Boudica a half-length away in third place.

Wheeler had many options from the outside of the back line, and he opted to angle Simply Shaz across to move to the inside and settle down four back on the pegs. Wheeler then cleverly eased Simply Shaz off the inside and forced Fleur Du Marquis three wide at the bell.

Wheeler then waited until passing the 400m mark to take Simply Shaz three wide, and the mare, after a 28.5sec third quarter, finished powerfully with a final 400m of 28.9sec.

Byford trainer Peter Anderson said that Simply Shaz was getting better and better with every start and that he was looking forward to her contesting the $75,000 Empress Stakes over 2536m next Friday week. “She is at her best over the longer distances,” he said.

Simply Shaz is by top sire American Ideal and is the first foal out of the Art Major mare Simply Stunning, who raced 54 times in New Zealand for six wins, 13 placings and $44,885 in prizemoney. Simply Stunning is a half-sister to Total Defiance, who earned $550,295 from 41 wins and 38 placings from 180 starts.

Total Defiance won once from nine New Zealand starts and had 43 starts in WA for trainer-reinsman Aldo Cortopassi for 22 wins and seven placings before travelling to America in 2010 where he won another 18 times. Total Defiance’s WA wins included the 2008 Battle Of Bunbury, the 2008 Kalgoorlie Cup and the 2009 Easter Cup.

Simply Shaz was purchased for $50,000 in New Zealand in December 2020, and her 51 WA starts have produced 13 wins, 12 placings and stakes of $88,154.

Colt resumes in style

New Zealand-bred colt Hes Never Been Beta looks set to develop into one of the State’s best three-year-olds this season, following his impressive first-up victory in the 2130m Aaron Bain Ownership Opportunities Available Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Produced in fine fettle by champion trainer Gary Hall snr for his first-up run after a four-month absence, Hes Never Been Beta, the $1.30 favourite, started from barrier four, took the lead after 150m and went on to win by a half-length from stablemate Star Lavra ($5.50), rating 1.58.3 after final 400m sections of 28.1sec. and 28.2sec.

Star reinsman Gary Hall jnr said that Hes Never Been Beta was capable of considerable improvement. “He is lazy but has got a bit of everything --- good gate speed and good speed,” he said. “He had a good look around out there.”

Star Lavra, reappearing after being off the scene for eight months, also impressed with his strong finishing effort for Stuart McDonald after racing in third place in the Indian file affair.

 “Star Lavra is a big lump of a horse, but he has a very good motor,” said Hall. “He is coming along in leaps and bounds, and I think that he and Hes Never Been Beta, along with Ima Black Flash will develop into good WA Derby prospects late this year.

“So, our stable should be able to make a pretty strong attack on the Derby (on November 3). And we have got a new three-year-old in Mister Smartee, who arrived from New Zealand about six weeks ago.”

Hall said he would probably face a difficult decision regarding his choice of three-year-old in the Derby, considering that he drove the Justin Prentice-trained Never Ending six times last year as a two-year-old for six wins, including three group 1 features, the Pearl, the Westbred Classic and the Golden Slipper.

Howlett’s wise choice

Busselton trainer Barry Howlett was an admirer of speedy chestnut Pazam, who shone with 19 wins from 31 starts in WA in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he jumped at the opportunity to buy a closely related colt as a yearling in New Zealand in 2018.

“Trevor Warwick trained and drove Pazam, and he had a high opinion of the horse,” explained Howlett. “So, that was the reason I bought this Sweet Lou colt by the name of Classic Choice.”

Classic Choice is the second foal out of the Bettors Delight mare Heart Of Jessie, whose dam Jessie Grace produced ten winners, including Pazam, who won at three of his eight New Zealand appearances before shining on the track in WA.

Classic Choice, unplaced at his previous nine starts and with a losing sequence of 15, was a $5.60 chance from out wide at barrier eight in the 2130m Michael Young Pacing Stables Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he bounced back to his best form with a vengeance with an impressive victory.

He was driven aggressively by Chris Lewis, who dashed the six-year-old into the breeze after racing three wide for the first 400m. Gran Chico ($7.50) set the pace, with Classic Choice travelling powerfully in the breeze before he surged to the front 350m from home and won by almost two lengths from the $4.40 favourite Kimble, who was seventh on the pegs at the bell before finishing with a solid burst.

The win was Classic Choice’s first in a metropolitan-class event and it improved his record to 53 starts for 12 wins, 16 placings and stakes of $108,633.

His previous success was when he raced without cover and beat Strike Team and Al Guerrero in the Manea Classic at Bunbury in February 2022. Two starts before that Classic Choice won the Albany Cup when he set the pace and beat his stablemate Sugar Street by ten lengths, rating 1.58.4 to set a track record over 2690m.

“Classic Choice is not a sit-sprinter,” said Howlett. “He has a high cruising speed which he can maintain for a long way. He has been trying to race in the breeze but bad barriers and being forced wide ruined his chances of getting to the breeze.

“Classic Choice used to be erratic, pull a fair bit and break up. But he has now settled down. He hits his knees quite badly and races with spreaders.”

Howlett purchased Classic Choice’s full-sister as a weanling in New Zealand. She is named Sweet Jessie and is now a three-year-old who has yet to race.

“She had bone chips in both hind legs and had surgery to remove them,” said Howlett.

El Chema is bred to succeed

Spirit Of St Louis is one of Australia’s best pacers and will be a leading prospect in the $1 million Nullarbor Slot race on April 14.

And basking in the glow of the brilliant New Zealand-bred six-year-old is his younger brother El Chema, who gave a further illustration of his wonderful potential with an exciting victory in the 1730m Eighteen Carat Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Spirit Of St Louis has earned $969,776 from 24 wins and 14 placings from 54 starts, a career highlighted by two group 1 wins, three at group 2 level and another two in group 3 events, as well as his last-start second to Catch A Wave in the Miracle Mile at Menangle early this month.

El Chema, purchased by outstanding Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice for $65,000 at the 2019 yearling sale in Christchurch, boosted his earnings to $93,341 from 11 wins and 11 placings from 29 starts after his fighting win by a nose over Street Hawk on Friday night.

El Chema, part-owned by Prentice, the gelding’s breeder Trevor Casey and three other stable clients, was the $1.60 favourite from the No. 3 barrier.

Four-year-old Hoppys Way, having his first start since early November, revealed his usual brilliant gate speed from barrier four to burst straight to the front, which left Emily Suvaljko with little option but to race in the breeze.

Hoppys Way dashed over the first three quarters of the final mile in 28.6sec., 29.6sec. and 28.2sec. with Suvaljko sending El Chema to the front with 520m to travel. Street Hawk, the $4 second fancy, settled down in eighth place before Deni Roberts sent him forward, three wide, approaching the bell. Street Hawk sustained his powerful finish, but El Chema fought on grandly to gain the verdict in an extremely close photo finish.

Prentice trained and drove Dracarys, a full-sister to El Chema, who had 29 starts for him in WA for 13 wins (including the group 3 2018 Gold Bracelet). Dracarys, the first foal out of Spirit Of Art, was retired after having 59 starts for 17 wins, 12 placings and $211,371.

“I have really liked him and had a good opinion of El Chema from day one,” said Prentice. “He was a bit fiery and I have taken my time with him. It’s taken a long time. He has still got a bit to learn, and I’ll be looking to take him through his grades.

“I was concerned when he got caught in the breeze tonight. It’s not what he has done too much of in the past, showing toughness. So, it was good to see him fight out the finish like he did.”

Suvaljko maintained her winning form with a treble at Bridgetown on Sunday. She was successful with Abbee Bee ($5), Blockjorg ($4.40) and Trunkey Fetch ($1.55). Her father Shannon stole the show at the meeting at Northam on Saturday night when he landed four winners --- Euston Flyer ($2.35), Feeling Aces ($15), Only Five Starzzz ($2.80) and Rising Spirit ($16).


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