Gloucester Park Review Friday 10 February 2024

12 February 2024 | Ken Casellas
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Steno is WA’s fastest mare

Club Menangle officials most certainly would have been impressed with the blistering speed shown by brilliant five-year-old Steno when she outclassed her rivals in scoring an effortless victory in the group 3 $50,000 Laurie Kennedy Free-For-All at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

It was a superb exhibition of dazzling speed which could well tempt those officials to invite trainer-driver Jocelyn Young to bring Steno to Sydney to contest the $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Mile (formerly the Ladyship Mile) at Menangle on Saturday, May 4.

The Menangle Club will issue invitations to the connections of two mares about three weeks before the rich event. All other mares in contention will need to compete in two lead-up events, the Sibelia Stakes on April 20 and the Robin Dundee Stakes on April 27, with the first four placegetters in each race qualifying for the final.

An invitation would certainly interest breeder-owner Dianne Kelly and Young to consider a trip east for Steno to line up against Australia’s best pacing mares.

On Friday night Steno, the $1.40 favourite, dashed straight to the front from the No. 3 barrier and was not extended in setting the pace with final 400m sections of 29.8sec., 28.7sec., 27.3sec. and 27.1sec. to win, unextended, by 5m from  $6 chance Cyclone Charlotte, who trailed the pacemaker all the way.

Steno rated 1.51.9 over the 1730m trip which is the fastest time recorded by a mare over 1730m in Western Australia. It was not far short of the track record of 1.51.2 set by Pinny Tiger when he led and won the Nights Of Thunder on January 20, 2023. Former champion Chicago Bull’s best rate over 1730m was 1.51.6.

Some idea of the magnitude of Steno’s performance on Friday night can be gauged by perusing current superstar pacer Magnificent Storm’s efforts in winning five times over 1730m at Gloucester Park, rating 1.52.5, 1.52.9, 1.53.2 and 1.53.9 twice.

West Australian mares have an excellent record in the Ladyship Mile, with Norms Daughter winning in 1996, Tailamade Lombo scoring in 1998 and 1999, and Sand Pebbles winning in 2004 before finishing second to Sokyola in the Miracle Mile the following week.

Leda McNally is the most recent WA runner in the Ladyship Mile when she was driven by Chris Voak and finished seventh behind Vansumic in 2014. Former WA pacers who have contested and been unplaced in the Ladyship Mile in recent years include Our Alfie Romeo (2020), Dracarys (2021) and Wainui Creek (2022).

Young said it was quite a coincidence that Steno’s previous best mile rate was an identical 1.51.9 when she won by five lengths over 1609m in a group 3 feature event for two-year-old fillies at Newcastle on December 5, 2021.

“Once we got to the front I could relax, to a degree,” said Young. “There is a feature event for mares in Perth about every month, so we will be looking at those races.” She added, that at this stage, she had not given a great deal of thought about taking Steno to Sydney for feature events at Menangle.

The New South Wales-bred Steno, who has had 37 starts for 17 wins, ten placings and $328,301 in stakes, showed early promise with her track record of 1.51.9 as a two-year-old, followed by her victory in the group 1 Gold Bullion at Menangle in April 2022 when she rated 1.53.4 over 1609m. Three months after that she finished third in the Queensland Oaks at Albion Park.

She is now at the top of her game, and she has led and won convincingly at each of her four appearances this year, scoring over 1730m, 2130m (twice) and 2536m.

Minstrel stakes his claim

Stuart McDonald celebrated his first drive behind star pacer Minstrel by guiding him to victory in the $31,000 Westbred The Way Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night --- a win which will put him in the forefront of champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond’s plans for their choice of their runner in the $1,250,000 Nullarbor slot race on April 19.

Minstrel, the $3.80 second fancy behind stablemate Ideal Agent, the $1.38 favourite, caused a minor upset by beating him after working hard all the way.

Minstrel began out wide at barrier eight and McDonald sent him forward with an early three-wide burst to race in the breeze outside the pacemaker and $23 chance Talks Up A Storm, while Deni Roberts gave Ideal Agent a favourable trip in the one-out, one-back position, following Minstrel.

Modest early times of a 37.9sec. lead time and opening quarters of 30.9sec. and 29.7sec. were followed by strong final 400m sections of 27.6sec. and 27.4sec. Minstrel got to the front 300m from home and he held the determined Ideal Agent at bay to score by a half-neck at a 1.56 rate.

“I enjoyed driving Minstrel once I got past the nerves,” said McDonald. “I haven’t been nervous driving a horse for a while, but I did have some nerves tonight.

“I had not driven Minstrel before. He seems to be out of that rut when he used to do things wrong, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. Once the amber light went on, I was fine. The plan was to roll forward and work our way to the breeze where he races at his best.

“He travelled beautifully, and he sped up when I wanted him to go. He was actually going to the line jogging. He is race hardened and seems to be in a very good patch at the moment.”

Roberts, who chose to handle Ideal Agent in preference to Minstrel, was not disappointed at Ideal Agent’s defeat, saying: “I’m happy with his run. The speed was just a bit too slow, and they got home in 27.4sec. And I would say that Ideal Agent ran about 27sec. So, the times were against him.

“Minstrel was super. It was a pretty soft breeze, and they ran a good last 600m. He’s looking Nullarbor bound. We’ve got Minstrel, Ideal Agent, Steel The Show and Tenzing Bromac, and Minstrel is definitely at the top at the moment.”

Minstrel has won in convincing style at his past four starts which have improved his record to 57 starts for 22 wins, 17 placings and stakes of $769,608.

Cranky Hotly Pursued succeeds

Hotly Pursued, the warm $1.80 favourite for the 2130m Garrard’s Horse And Hound Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night, gave his supporters a scare when he was in a cantankerous mood and was beaten for early speed.

Trainer Murray Lindau and reinsman Kyle Harper were planning to use the four-year-old’s good gate speed in a bid for an all-the-way win. But Mitchell Miller had other ideas and he drove $12 chance Soho Santorini out hard from the No. 5 barrier.

Soho Santorini led by a length but was unable to cross to the front as Harper urged Hotly Pursued forward to take up the running.

“Hotly Pursued got a bit cranky at the gate and went sideways, bumping into Bee Jays Boy,” said Lindau. “He missed the kick by about half a length before he enjoyed setting the pace.

“He is a nice frontrunner who is also able to sit and sprint at the end of his races.”

After a slow lead time of 38.4sec. and an ambling opening quarter of 31.4sec. Hotly Pursued dashed over the final quarters in 28.8sec., 28.2sec. and 28sec. to win by 2m from the $2.20 second fancy Jawsoflincoln, who raced in sixth place in the one-wide line before sprinting home brilliantly. The Miki Taker ($11) did well to finish third after racing without cover.

Hotly Pursued, bred and owned by Lindau and his partner Claire McNaughton, has earned $122,083 from nine wins and eleven placings from 30 starts. Lindau will be setting him for the $100,000 Westbred Classic for four-year-old entires and geldings over 2536m on April 12.

Gregarmy is a bargain

Cardup trainer Craig Abercromby made a wise decision to buy Gregarmy for $8000 in August 2021.

The big Shadow Play gelding has proved to be a bargain, and he took his earnings for the Abercromby family to $58,487 from nine wins and six seconds from 39 starts when he gave a spirited performance to win first-up at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

At his first appearance for five months Gregarmy was a $9.40 chance from out wide at barrier seven in the 2130m Running Camel Pace in which star young reinsman Kyle Symington gave him the task of racing in the breeze.

Gregarmy settled down in eighth position before Symington dashed him forward to the breeze after 550m. Veteran pacer and $8 chance Master Leighton set a solid pace, and when he was challenged by Tubbs Farquhar ($5.50) in the back straight in the final circuit Symington angled Gregarmy to the pegs at the 400m.

Master Leighton shrugged off Tubbs Farquhar and looked the winner approaching the home turn where Gregarmy got off the pegs and finished determinedly to get up and hit the front five metres from the post and win by a metre from the pacemaker.

It was a race for the oldtimers, with seven-year-old Gregarmy beating eight-year-old Master Leighton and 11-year-old Disco Under Fire, rating 1.56.7.

“Generally, it is not wise to race in the breeze, first-up, but that is Gregarmy’s racing pattern,” said Symington. “He doesn’t like to be held up and he likes to bowl along and sprint home.”

Abercromby bought Gregarmy after the gelding had raced nine times without being placed. “He paid for himself when he won at his first start for us, at Pinjarra,” said Abercromby. “We got the first stake as well as all the bonuses for a WA-bred pacer.”

Gregarmy won by more than five lengths in that 1684m event. He is the third foal out of Little Missmatuity, and the only one to have raced out of that mare who earned $63,900 from six wins and 38 placings from 93 starts.

Mister Montblanc is a good second choice

Banjup trainer Annie Belton went to the 2020 APG Perth yearling sale keen to purchase the Always B Miki colt out of Harriet Elisabeth.

She bid for the colt but retired from the duel before he was sold for $57,500. The colt who was later named Tricky Miki has earned $482,721 from eleven wins and nine placings from 25 starts, with his victories including four group 1 events, the 2021 Golden Slipper, the Westbred Classic and WA Derby in 2022 and the Golden Nugget in 2023.

“My second choice was a colt by Fly Like An Eagle, and I had to keep going (in the bidding) to get him,” said Belton. Remarkably, she outlaid exactly $57,500 to buy the colt she later named Mister Montblanc.

Mister Montblanc, now a five-year-old, is proving an excellent performer who improved his record to 32 starts for ten wins and six placings for stakes of $80,215 when he was driven to a smart victory by Shannon Suvaljko in the 2503m Hoist Torque Australia Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Mister Montblanc was the $3 favourite, who paced roughly for a few strides from the 10m mark before settling down in eighth position while Hes Royal Blue, Deeorse and Feeling Aces all took turns in the lead in the first lap.

Suvaljko quickly had Mister Montblanc poised to strike from the one-out, one-back position, following the $4.20 chance Ardens Horizon in the breeze.

Ardens Horizon got to the front 110m from home before Mister Montblanc finished strongly to take the lead 70m from the post and win by almost a length from Ardens Horizon.

Mister Montblanc is the tenth foal out of the New South Wales-bred Village Jasper mare Arkareena, who had 88 starts for 30 wins (all in Queensland) and 24 placings for stakes of $130,305.

Mister Montblanc is a half-brother to Monarkmac, who earned $313,002 from 35 wins (24 in Queensland, nine in Tasmania and two in New South Wales) and 81 placings from 342 starts. He won a heat of the NSW Derby at Menangle in April 2012 in which Fly Like An Eagle finished third. Monarkmac then finished eighth behind Smolda in the final.

Arkareena’s half-brother Atomic Ark earned $435,113 from 36 wins and 49 placings from 163 starts. He raced in WA in 2011 when he had 19 starts for five placings at Gloucester Park.

 Lady Prima Donna breaks through

New Zealand-bred five-year-old Lady Prima Donna broke through for her first win in WA when Deni Roberts drove her to an all-the-way victory in the 2130m Westerntrilogy.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Lady Prima Donna, trained by Greg and Skye Bond, was the $6 second fancy from the coveted No. 1 barrier, with Hes Never Been Beta the dominant $1.55 favourite from barrier six.     

“The plan was to lead,” said Roberts, who said she was somewhat concerned in the final lap when challengers were emerging and the smart sit-sprinter Rockaball was poised to strike after enjoying a perfect run behind her.

“I was stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “Lady Prima Donna can’t sprint that well, and I didn’t want the ones coming wide to get close to her. But I had Rockaball on my back as well.

“Once we straightened for the run home, I let her go, and it got a bit close at the finish (when Rockaball got clear in the late stages and flew home to finish a head behind the leader).”

Hes Never Been Beta enjoyed a good trip, one-out and two-back, but after being switched three wide 250m from home, he failed to flatter and finished a well-beaten sixth.

Lady Prima Donna is by American sire Betterthancheddar and is the third foal out of the unraced Falcon Seelster mare Miss Glory, whose half-sister Fleet’s Pocket produced 14 winners, including Mighty Flying Thomas, who was retired with a fine record of 226 starts for 24 wins, 56 placings and stakes of $354,622.

Lady Prima Donna, a winner at three of her 25 New Zealand starts, has raced five times in WA for one win and three placings. She is related to Our Graedy, who raced 193 times for 32 wins, 64 placings and $307,713 in prizemoney. Our Graedy was trained by Gary Hall snr when he raced in WA in 1998 and 1999 for nine wins, including the Higgins Memorial in July 1998.         

Hard work improves Azterian

Owner-trainer Nathan Turvey was disappointed at Azterian’s two unplaced efforts last month after the six-year-old had resumed from a spell that he decided to work the Victorian-bred gelding harder.

This has had the desired effect, with Azterian’s two appearances after the change in routine producing a second placing at Bunbury and an easy victory in the 2130m APG Perth Yearling Sale March 3RD Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“I made a decision to work him harder, and it is paying dividends,” said Turvey. “I am now galloping him once a week on my thousand metre sand track, riding a motor bike and leading him. And I’ve never had him looking so good.”

Reinsman Kyle Symington was impressed with Azterian’s improvement, saying: “He was feeling a lot sharper tonight. He did some early work (out three wide) before gaining a good sit, one-out and one-back.”

Symington switched Azterian ($5.20) three wide 650m from home and he burst to the front 150m later and went on to win comfortably by more than a length from the fast-finishing $12 chance Here Comes Sharkie, rating 1.57.5.

Azterian, a winner at seven of his 52 Victorian starts, has had 13 starts in WA for Turvey for three wins and four placings, taking his career record to 65 starts for ten wins, 22 placings and $66,762.

Azterian is by American stallion Sportswriter and is the second foal out of Victorian mare Neishars Jet, who raced 32 times for two wins, five placings and $12,861.

Azterian’s great granddam Nemeeshar was a WA-bred mare by Village Jasper who amassed $331,230 from 18 wins and 15 placings from 41 starts.

Nemeeshar’s first six starts in WA in November and December 2002 produced two wins (at Pinjarra and Gloucester Park) and two thirds before she went on to win the group 1 Gold Tiara at Bathurst in March 2003, the group 1 Vicbred Super Series final for three-year-old fillies at Moonee Valley in May 2004, and the $121,500 Breeders Crown at Bendigo in August 2004.

A notable first for Hall

Champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr chalked up a notable achievement when he prepared his first metropolitan-class winner as a trainer when Maddison Brown drove veteran pacer Regal Cheval to a smart victory in the 2130m Trotsynd Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The 41-year-old Hall, who is approaching 4000 wins as a reinsman, has concentrated on driving throughout his career in harness racing, and is now enjoying the challenge of training a couple of pacers, including Miki Jet, a winner at Gloucester Park last Tuesday week.

His first winner as a trainer was with The Postie at Northam on August 22, 2001. He has now prepared a total of nine winners. Apart from Regal Cheval, Miki Jet and Regal Cheval he has won two races with General Jolt and Comnharry and notched a win with Armed Reactor and Henrick Larsson.

Regal Cheval was an $8.10 chance on Friday night when he ended a 20-month drought and broke a losing sequence of 42. Brown got Regal Cheval away fast from barrier four and the nine-year-old burst straight to the front despite the urgings of Hall on the $2.40 favourite Medieval Man from the No. 1 barrier.

Regal Cheval enjoyed moderate opening quarters of 31.2sec. and 30sec. before he sprinted over the final 400m sections in 27.7sec. and 28sec. He won convincingly from $4 chance Sugar Apple, who worked hard early before enjoying an ideal trip in the one-out, one-back position. The winner rated a smart 1.56.6.

Regal Cheval was having his fourth start for Hall, who said there was no magic formula for his success on Friday night.

“I just work him like all the others,” he said. “He had dropped back in class to a grade in which he should be able to win. Colin (Colin Brown, Regal Cheval’s previous trainer) said the horse needed a change.”

Regal Cheval, a gelding by American sire Artistic Fella, is a veteran of 132 starts who has won 13 races and been placed 36 times for earnings of $162,069.

Rolling Fire resumes in style

South Australian-bred gelding Rolling Fire reappeared after a three-month absence in fine style when he scored an impressive victory in the 2130m SEFS The Asset Finance Specialists Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.   

Trainer Justin Prentice produced the four-year-old in splendid condition and said that, all going well, he would have his next start in the $50,000 Chandon Classic, a group 3 event over 2130m next Friday week.

“His main aim will be the Golden Nugget at the end of the year,” said Prentice. “I’m very happy with his first-up run. I thought he would go good but in the breeze and after a 27.2sec. quarter down the back I thought that might soften him up.”

Rolling Fire, a gelding by American stallion Roll With Joe, has earned $114,355 from ten wins and three placings from 20 starts, and he looks set for a profitable campaign.

He started from the No. 2 barrier and was the $1.20 favourite on Friday night when he was driven by Emily Suvaljko, who was content to rate him in the breeze after the polemarker Ideal Tomado ($4.80) won the start and after a lead time of 37.2sec. simply ambled through the opening quarters of 32.2sec. and 30.1sec.

“I would’ve much preferred to have been out in front instead of in the breeze,” said Suvaljko. “But he is quite a versatile horse. I tried to come out of the gate (to lead), but Ideal Tomado looked like he wanted to hold up. So, I was happy enough to sit in the breeze in that company.

“He has been working really good, and Justin has put the polish on him and said that he was cherry ripe for tonight’s race. I think he will keep improving. I was a little bit worried when Flying Rumour pulled out and loomed up quickly. But Rolling Fire is a lazy horse, and when you ask him (for an effort) he responds --- and he won comfortably, coming home in 54.6sec.”

Half sisters reign supreme               

Coincidences never fail to surprise --- and there was a remarkable occurrence on Friday night when In A Wink caused an upset when she finished fast to win the Nova 93.7 Pace at Gloucester Park, a little more than six hours after her half-sister Allamerican Lover won the group 1 Breeders Stakes for mares 5,053 kilometres away at Addington Raceway in Christchurch.

In A Wink, owned by Team Bond and prepared by champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond, was the $8.20 second fancy in an event expected to be dominated by brilliant three-year-old filly Xceptional Arm, who was the $1.06 favourite from the outside barrier in the field of six.

Luci Kane pulled hard as she set a fast pace, which left Xceptional Arma working in the breeze and In A Wink enjoying a perfect trail behind that filly in the one-out, one-back position.

Xceptional Arma, driven by Maddison Brown, eventually forged clear with 250m to travel but was unable to hold out In A Wink, who burst to the front 50m from the post and won by 2m at a 1.56.2 rate over the 2130m journey.

In A Wink is by Bettors Delight and she was having her first start for five months, with her driver Deni Roberts admitting she was surprised with her splendid performance.

In A Wink is the fourth foal out of Goodlookingbabe, a modest performer in New Zealand who raced there 14 times for three wins and stakes of $20,475. In A Wink now has had nine starts for four wins, three placings and $40,803 and has a long way to go to match the achievements of her six-year-old half-sister Allamerican Lover, who has earned $298,675 from 13 wins and nine placings from 34 starts.

At Addington on Friday night Allamerican Lover raced one-out and one-back before being switched three wide at the bell and then working in the breeze before getting to the front on the home turn and dashing away to win from the fast-finishing unusually-named mare Mr Kaplan.

A fortnight earlier Allamerican Lover gave an outstanding performance to win a group 2 1980m event at Addington when she began from the outside barrier (No. 9) and was restrained back to 13TH position in the field of 14 before starting a three-wide move at the bell and racing in the breeze and getting to the front 120m from the post.

In A Wink’s victory completed a double for Roberts and a treble for the Bonds, with Roberts saying: “Things worked out very well, with the favourite having to do all the work while we had a perfect sit.

“I was surprised at the win, with In A Wink a bit on the gross side. Her work has been good but being a little filly, we don’t like to do too much with her. She was a lot more forward than I expected.”

The Bonds also enjoyed great success with In A Wink’s elder full-sister In The Spotlight, who raced 20 times in WA for nine wins and five placings, with her major victory being the group 1 Diamond Classic in May 2021 in which she defeated Taking The Miki.

In The Spotlight left for America in November 22 where she has won five times to improve her record to 47 starts for 14 wins, 15 placings and $245,044.

It is interesting to note that Goodlookingbabe’s half-sister Elle Mac was a superstar who was retired to the breeding barn as a four-year-old in 2019 after a glittering career of twelve wins, ten placings and stakes of $476,806. In group 1 events she won six times, finished second three times and third once.

    

 

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