Never Ending can overcome wide draw
Unbeaten gelding Never Ending has led all the way in four of his eight victories, but champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr is not fazed at his wide barrier at No. 8 in the $50,000 Team Bond Pearl Classic for three-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
“It’s not ideal but Never Ending is versatile and has blinding speed,” said Hall. “He gets keen when he leads, and it just shows how good he is when it doesn’t worry him when he overraces. He settles good when he goes back and gets on to a helmet.
“He will be hard to beat whatever he does. I think we will go back on Friday night unless Justin (trainer Justin Prentice) has other ideas. If we go back, we can put him into the race whenever we like.”
Never Ending has not been seriously challenged in winning at all of his eight starts, and it is in his favour that his most likely danger Rocket City, trained and driven by Dylan Egerton-Green will start on his outside at barrier No. 9.
In a qualifying heat on Tuesday of last week Never Ending led from the No. 2 barrier and won by just over a length from Rocket City, who finished strongly after racing in third position in the Indian file affair in which the final 400m sections were covered in 27.6sec. and 27.3sec.
Prentice and Hall will be looking to notch their second victory in the Three-Year-Old Pearl, after Gardys Legacy led all the way from the No. 1 barrier and defeated Valentines Brook in 2020.
The Three-Year-Old Pearl has been run only five times, and Chris Lewis has been successful twice --- with Jack Mac in 2018 and Lavra Joe in 2021. He will drive heat winner Magnus Victor for Capel trainer Aiden de Campo from the No. 2 barrier on the back line.
De Campo also won a qualifying heat with Sorridere, and he will drive that gelding from the No. 6 barrier on the front line. Sorridere impressed when he finished strongly from fourth at the bell to beat the pacemaker Rolling Fire.
Soho Firestone, who trailed the pacemaker Never Ending in a heat before finishing two lengths behind that pacer, will start from barrier five in the final on Friday night when he will be driven by Mitch Miller for trainer Kim Prentice.
“I’m glad Soho Firestone has drawn inside Never Ending, Sorridere and Rocket City, and not outside of them,” said Prentice. “So, he’s probably got to take the advantage of this.
“In the heat he was chasing home a freakish horse. Regarding tactics, it will be up to Mitch; it will be his decision. But from barrier five he has probably got to go forward and try to find a hole.”
Steno ready for action
Talented New South Wales-bred mare Steno will be having her first start for 195 days when she contests the Frank And Frankel Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night at her West Australian debut, and her trainer Cameron Ross is confident of a strong showing.
Steno’s clash at her first appearance as a four-year-old with the Victorian-bred five-year-old mare Blaze Coops is sure to arouse considerable interest.
Steno, who will be driven by Jocelyn Young from barrier four, has raced successfully in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, and she has earned $184,719 from ten wins and eight placings from 21 starts.
She was turned out for a spell after finishing eleventh behind Encipher in a semi-final of the Victorian Breeders Crown for three-year-old fillies over 2240m at Melton last November.
“This was the only blemish during in her most recent three months of racing,” said Ross. “You can’t take anything out of that run because they went slow (when she was at the rear) and then super fast when she was off the track.
“So, she then had a good three-month break before coming back into work. She track-worked at Pinjarra this morning (Tuesday) and was good, and she had a bit of a private trial on Saturday when she worked quite well.
“She is a class horse, and she hasn’t had a trial. I don’t like trialling too much, and I think that this should be a nice race for her to start with.
“She has gate speed and late speed and is a pretty rounded horse.”
Steno, who is by the American sire Sweet Lou and is the ninth foal out of former star mare Lady Waratah, a winner of four group 1 events who was retired with a record of 36 starts for 20 wins, eight placings and $564,770.
A highlight of Steno’s career was her victory in the group 1 APG Gold Bullion for three-year-old fillies over 1609m at Menangle in April of last year when she rated 1.53.4 and the 400m sections were covered in 26.4sec., 31.7sec., 28.1sec. and 27.2sec.
Three months after that Steno finished third in the Queensland Oaks at Albion Park, and as a two-year-old she went 1.51.9 over 1609m at Newcastle.
“Around Gloucester Park you have got to go forward,” said Ross. “Steno has the gate speed to go forward; I’ll leave that up to Jocelyn.”
Blaze Coops, trained by Shane Tognolini and to be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, has been most impressive after resuming from a spell. At her first appearance for seventh months Blaze Coops began from the outside barrier (No. 9) in a 2130m event at Gloucester Park three Tuesday ago and burst to the front after 200m, set a solid pace and rated 1.58 in beating Just For Love by a head.
Six days later she led from barrier five and then took a trail before finishing strongly to win easily from Benji, rating 1.57.1 over 2185m at Pinjarra. And six days after that Blaze Coops was not extended in winning a 2150m Byford trial by eight lengths at a 1.59.4 rate.
Part-owner Reg Musgrave said that he expected a bold showing from Blaze Coops on Friday night when the mare will start from the No. 6 barrier. “She has a lot of gate speed, and she will be coming out. And if she gets to the front she will be running along. She also performs well with a sit, like she did at Pinjarra.”
Pecunious can surprise
Trainer Michael Young and reinsman Gary Hall jnr are a formidable combination, and though Pecunious finished fourth, nine lengths behind talented gelding Thelittle Master over 2185m at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon they agree that the filly is capable of a bold showing when she starts from barrier four in the 2130m The Thirsty Vet Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
At Pinjarra, Pecunious, at her second race start, raced three back on the pegs and was outclassed by Thelittle Master, who sped over the final quarters in 27.4sec. and 27.8sec.
“Those times were out of her reach, but she also ran a good last half (28.2sec. and 28.3sec.),” said Hall.
That run came ten days after her debut when she raced in sixth position before fighting on to be second, three lengths behind Aldo Cortopassi’s speedy filly Bazaar Package over 2130m at Gloucester Park.
“She is going all right,” said Hall. “She just has trouble picking up the bit when she needs to.”
Young is looking for further improvement from Pecunious. “She goes pretty nicely; she is still learning and is on the way up,” he said.
Young and Hall are also confident of a strong performance from Lamandier, who will start from the outside of the front line in the Toby Taylor Handicap, a stand over 2503m.
Lamandier galloped at the start and did well to finish strongly from the rear to win a 2631m stand at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon.
“He went really good, and driven the same, sit-kick, he is a winning chance again,” said Young. Hall’s comment was: “He’s in with a chance if he can get away.”
Another good prospect for the dynamic duo is Miss Serenade, who will begin from the prized No. 1 barrier in the opening event, the 1730m Amy and Jack Pace. Miss Serenade resumed after a four-month absence when she began from the outside of the back line, raced three back on the pegs and finished seventh behind Nullarbor Navajo last Friday week.
Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell will be looking for strong efforts from brilliant stablemates Swingband (race two; barrier one) and Shockwave (outside barrier in the field of seven in race six).