Catch up on the week's harness racing action in our weekly review, thanks to Darren Clayton.
It has been a long road, but Western Action has started to repay the faith shown in his ability after he made it successive wins at Redcliffe last Thursday.
After breaking through for a maiden breaking victory on The Triangle back on March 9, the Ricky Gordon-trained and driven gelding made it two in a row when matching his winning time of 1.58.4 last Thursday.
Claiming a 3.8 metre margin at his first win, the seven-year-old decimated his opposition at his latest victory when posting an 18 metre margin over second placed Rambling On.
Owner Paul Ellis purchased the Western Terror and Same Action colt from the 2017 yearling sales on his annual pilgrimage to the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival.
Bred and prepared by Doug and Janet Moore of Brooklyn Lodge near Bathurst, Ellis liked the colt and soon had him on a transportser back to Queensland to join the stables of Ricky Gordon.
Currently in Bathurst for another trip to the famous Gold Crown Carnival, Ellis said he kept the hands down at yesterday’s yearling sales.
“I bought Chakana from the these sales a few years back because she was a QBRED and Ricky thinks she is a nice enough type that should win a couple,” Ellis said.
Ellis and Gordon have had a long association and after the education process with Western Action, it was decided that the yearling would require some time to mature.
“We just left him to mature, gave him plenty of time because he needed it," he said.
“Then when we thought he was ready he was four and we set him for a race and he refused to score up.”
That race was at Tamworth in February 2020 where he finished in seventh place in his debut appearance, over 100 metres from the winner.
Banished to the trials, he would make another two appearances in April 2020 when out of the money, before again facing a race embargo and sent back to the trials.
“He used to look at the gig of the horse next to him, then he would look inside," he said.
“Then he was racing at night and he decided he did not want to be under lights, he just really needed to mature."
Returning in May for another three unplaced runs, he was again stood down by the stewards and once again, earned the return, only to be sent back for two trials at his seventh race start.
Unable to clear the embargo in four attempts, he was sent for a long spell and was not sighted for 14 months, gaining the all-clear to return to racing in October 2021.
Finishing unplaced on two occasions at Redcliffe, he was then sent for another break, this time he would be out of the public eye for 15 months, returning to the trials in January of this year.
Making his way back to the races, the now seven-year-old finished runner-up at Redcliffe on February 2 and it was another month until his next start, the maiden breaking win on March 9.
“Its taken him a long time to work it out, and when he won that first race, we decided to take him straight to the front and then he wouldn’t be able to look at anything,” Ellis said.
That proved successful and the same tactics were employed when winning his second race last week.
“He is no star, but I think he can win another couple," he said.
As for Chakana, the four-year-old mare has had three starts this season, with the lucrative QBRED first win bonus on the radar.
After 39 previous starts, an elusive maiden breaking victory seemed to be always just out of reach of the George Michael trained five-year-old gelding, Our Little Skipper.
Starting to put it together this season, the gelding looked to have found the perfect opportunity for a breakthrough, landing barrier one at Redcliffe back on March 2, in a maiden race where he looked well placed to open the winning account.
Unfortunately it would not be that day when the meeting was abandoned prior to the first race being held after the starting are was deemed unsuitable for racing.
Fast forward two weeks to last Thursday at Redcliffe, and again the gelding had drawn gate one and with the barrier and his recent form, punters responded to send the five-year-old out as the $2.25 race favourite.
Right as the green light to release the field came on, Our Little Skipper with Lola Weidemann taking the reins, galloped and went back through the field, eventually able to settle back into a pace, albeit now three back on the inside.
Sitting patient until 350 metres to travel, Weidemann angled the gelding one off the fence as the field started to open up when the pace went on.
Running up behind them, he was then angled back to the inside and the gelding responded to Weidemann’s urgings, darting through along the passing lane to claim what just two minutes earlier had looked an improbable victory.
In claiming the maiden breaking win, it also provided George Michael with his first training success in 18 years, his previous win coming in January 2005 when Melton Bonny Lad was successful at Redcliffe.
Although having had very few starters since the win of Melton Bonny Lad and not even presenting a starter between the 2005-06 and 2017-18 seasons, Michael has owned and bred countless winners in that period.
Horses that have either raced or been bred by Michael in the period between his training victories include Melton Sotera, Astrophe, Melton Mulitmax, Takem Easy, Namba Girl, Hez Hellbound and Melton Insulted.
Owning, breeding and training Our Little Skipper, the gelding is a son of Michael’s own stallion, Boom Boom Hall with the win also securing the QBRED first win bonus.
Boom Boom Hall is now the sire of four winners from just six starters.
The standardbred has long been known for its durability and that trait has been on full display in the past week with the Mark McNee-trained La Safron.
Last Thursday on his home track of Redcliffe the veteran 10-year-old gelding was lining up for his fourth race start in eight days and start number 222 in his career.
Facing a second line gate, driver Bryse McElhinney soon had the gelding in the running line as Its Back Page News pressed forward to take up the running.
With the leader setting a genuine tempo, McElhinney pulled wide with 500 metres to travel and La Safron sprinted up strongly as he made his move into the contest.
Moving up strongly, the leader started to feel the pinch and was yielding ground and as they swung for the run to the judge, La Safron hit the front and fought strongly to the wire to claim the victory.
La Safron may be approaching the twilight of his career, however the veteran has relished the regular racing at Redcliffe in the past fortnight, with Thursday’s win his third in the four starts over the eight day period.
It followed an all the way win on Monday night, where McElhinney drove a well-judged race from the front, where he was able to set a steady tempo through the opening half, before putting it out of reach for the chasing pack with a slick last 400 metre panel.
The streak started when Nathan Dawson combined with the gelding to score an comfortable victory in the last race of the night on Wednesday March 8.
A third when driven by Leonard Cain at his next appearance on Saturday March 11 was then followed by the successive victories with McElhinney in the cart.
The gelded son of Safari was purchased for the modest sum of just $4,000 in November 2020, however it was not until July 2021 that La Safron was able to claim his first victory for McNee.
La Safron has now had 109 starts under the care of McNee and the gelding has proven a great money-spinner for his trainer and fellow co-owners Shane and Neeta Malone, winning 12 races and placed on a further 34 occasions, while banking over $70,000 in that time.
Can the streak continue?
Well, the wait will not be long to find out, with La Safron and McElhinney again combining tonight, Monday March 20, quoted as short as $1.70 to complete the three-peat.
Mat Wright achieved a unique milestone last Monday night at Redcliffe when preparing the winning trifecta in the fifth race of the night, training the first three horses across the line.
With just four horses engaged on the card, three of those - Todays Hero, Man of Action and Aunty Frances - were all in the same race, while Chang was lining up in the seventh race of the night.
Regular stable driver Clint Sneddon took the reins behind Man Of Action, Leonard Cain was aboard Todays Hero and Brendan Barnes had the seat behind Aunty Frances who was sent out as the $3.90 TAB favourite.
From gate one, it was Cain and Todays Hero that had bounced out to the front, while Barnes had slid across from a wide gate to have Aunty Frances in the running line as Man Of Action settled behind Aunty Frances.
Running the race at an even tempo, Barnes made his move from back in the pack and the five-year-old mare let down smartly to sweep straight on by, pulling clear to claim a winning margin of over 11 metres.
Todays Hero battled gamely to hold on for second and claim his fourth placing from 10 starts this season.
Meanwhile, Man Of Action could not sprint when Aunty Frances made her move, yet he continued to chase valiantly, holding on for third placing in a blanket finish for the minors with second to fifth separated by just a long neck margin.
The win was the fourth career victory for Aunty Frances and the second since Wright has been training the mare after his dad Gavin purchased her from Lola Weidemann mid-way through 2022.
Not only was it a winning training trifecta for Mat, Gavin owns the first two runners across the line and shares in the ownership of the third placed Man Of Action with Mat, a gelding that they have leased since February of 2022.
The win was Wright’s third this season, as he looks well placed to make the 2023 season his best.
Racing in Queensland this week will see three meetings from Redcliffe and three from Albion Park running from Monday through to Saturday.
Redcliffe will host a Monday night fixture with seven races to start the week, complemented by the regular Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon slots.
Tuesday from "The Creek"will see nine races followed by an afternoon meeting on Friday before the Saturday night metropolitan fixture.
Saturday’s card will see the Final of the Jim McNeil Trotting Final following the two rounds of heats, with Everysecondcounts looking to sweep the series after being the only runner to win both heats contested.
The capacity field will go over the 2647 metre journey in the FInal.
Show racing will also return this week from Warwick with the Ray Bunch Machinery Cantor Cup which doubles as the opening event for horses to work towards qualifying for the Garrards Showcase to be held at Redcliffe on June 16.