Nullarbor rematch just days away

21 April 2024 | Adam Hamilton
Catch A Wave's 2024 Nullarbor Win

Catch A Wave's 2024 Nullarbor Win Photo by Pacepix

THE epic $1.25mil Group 1 Nullarbor left us wanting a rematch, and it's coming in just a few days.

Most of the key players from last Friday night's memorable Gloucester Park stoush, headed by winner Catch A Wave, will return to battle again in this Friday's $300,000 Group 1 Fremantle Cup.

The race will be a little longer—2936 m compared to the 2536m of the Nullarbor, and there will be two new "faces" in the field, while young gun Never Ending and classy veteran Spirit Of St Louis will be missing.

But at least the six horses who finished closest to Catch A Wave in the Nullarbor – many who ran mighty races or had no luck – will get their chance to turn the tables.

Trainer Andy Gath said Catch A Wave had thrived since the richest win of his stellar career in Nullarbor.

"Racing week-to-week doesn't worry him. In fact, he thrives on it."

"Everything tells me he'll be at least as good next Friday as he was the other night," he said.

"He's had his ups and downs over the past 12 months or so, but he's in a great place now and is as good as we've ever had him."

"It's been a great trip. Everything has gone as well as we could've expected and we're really happy with the horse."

"Part of the attraction in coming over (from Victoria) was the two big races back-to-back, so it's always been the plan."

"It was great to be able to drive him the way we wanted, sitting back and coming with one run in the Nullarbor."

Gath is aware the stretch to a genuine staying distance is a query with Catch A Wave, who before the Nullarbor had built his stardom through sprinting races, headed by the Miracle Mile almost 15 months ago.

"Lots of people didn't think he'd run a strong 2500m and he did that the other night. I know it's further again, but he's in such a good place, if he's ever going to run it, it should be this week," he said.

Minstrel looms as a major threat on his brave second in the Nullarbor after making an early move to do the work outside of the leader and only being beaten 3.1 metres.

The Team Bond-trained star is in career-best form with six wins from his past eight starts, including the Pinjarra Cup over 2692m, and seconds in the other two runs.

NSW raider Hot And Treacherous endured a torrid run in the Nullarbor and was far from disgraced.

The Jason Grimson-trained gelding will relish the gruelling trip, as evidenced by his third to superstars Leap To Fame and Swayzee in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake over 2680m at Albion Park back in July last year.

Lavra Joe was arguably the run of the race after working hard out wide early in an unsuccessful attempt to get outside of the leader, then drifting back to last before flashing home late for a close fourth.

Trainer Michael Brennan is sweating on the final Fremantle Cup field with his stable star Pinny Tiger.

The speedster showed he had gone to another level when he led throughout to win the Nullarbor consolation and ran a faster time than Catch A Wave in the main event.

"He's never gone better. We've got our fingers and toes crossed," Brennan said. 

"He deserves a crack at it."

Trainer Justin Prentice said Never Ending had come through his luckless Nullarbor run without any issues and would spell for "six weeks or so."

"He was never going on to the Freo Cup," he said. 

"He'll have a break and get ready for the next big one, the Eureka."

Stewards are probing the incident on the home bend when Never Ending broke for a few strides. The inquiry will resume on Friday night.

·      Adam Hamilton is a paid contributor writing on harness racing for News Corp.


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