Day At The Track
Miss McManus after her maiden win,Harness racing

Michael on the money with big gamble

A wild hunch by Tongala-based harness racing trainer Michael Watt has proved a winning one with stable newcomer Miss McManus. The eight-year-old former pacing mare (Grinfromeartoear-Tasma Walton (Walton Hanover) showed at Cobram on Monday that she should have a bright future as a square-gaiter - just six weeks after switching gait. "She's owned by Norm and Joan Visca and I still remember when I rang and told them I'd decided to give the horse a try as a trotter - to be honest I think they thought I was crazy!" Watt said. "But she had showed me at home that she was quite comfortable trotting so I was confident I was on the right track," he said. Watt's decision was vindicated when Miss McManus didn't put a foot wrong first-up to take out the Cliff Robinson Memorial Trot at Cobram in a handy mile rate of 2.02-6. Driven by Damian Wilson, the mare accelerated nicely at the start to lead, but soon afterwards handed up to $2.60 favorite Bacardi Wood (Gary Pekin). Wilson waited patiently for the sprint lane and zipped through to win by 1.3 metres. Owners Norm and Joan Visca (left) accept the trophy from representatives of the Robinson family, Andrew, Caroline and Debbie As a pacer, Miss McManus had 65 starts for three wins and 14 placings. During her career she has been trained by father-and-son Brian and Matthew Gath, South Australians Kevin Walker and Mark Delaney, and Wilson himself. Watt said there was "a bit of a funny story" in regard to how he initially got the mare. "I had a few trotters in my stable and decided I needed a pacer to train, so I approached Norm (Visca) and he offered me Miss McManus," he said. "So in just six weeks, I jogged her up, switched her to a trotter, got her qualified and won with her with my good mate Damo taking the reins - it's surreal to look back on it," he said. However, Watt did admit he had some early disappointment at the trials when Miss McManus went back to her old habits and paced away in a standing start. "But I gave her a few more trials, including one at Shepparton a few days before the Cobram race and she did everything perfect and ran a close-up second," he said. And the recent victory is not the first time Watt has tasted success by switching gaits with a pacer. In the 1990s, he took on six-year old pacer Grimster, already a winner of three races in his 80 starts. He converted Grimster to trotting and trialled, raced and won with him two months later, going on to a further four wins as a square-gaiter. Watt is related to the renowned Conroy family, of Daylesford, who are noted specialists with trotters. "I grew up with the late Bob Conroy's kids Glenn and Anne-Maree, so I was always going to have a love for the square gaiters," he said. "Bob was an absolute legend and I've written down in a book all the things that he told me. "He was a marvel- a man well before his time. I reckon he would have been chuffed looking down on us last Monday!" Watt said as well, he'd picked up valuable information over the years from his dad John, a long-time trainer, who still prepares one or two as a hobby. He also paid tribute to the Visca couple, adding the industry needed "hundreds of owners like them". "They support their trainers to the max and they just enjoy being part of the sport." Watt works on a 25-acre property with gallops trainer Bluey Thomas. It boasts an 800 metre track, along with other facilities including a swim, walker and treadmill. Watt rates Great Success-sired gelding Dynamic Legacy (five wins, 15 placings for $44,000) as his best horse at present.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Aleppo Murphy,Harness racing

Smooth sailing for Michelle

Michelle Eastman is thriving in her new role with the Maryborough Harness Racing Club, but hasn’t let the job get in the way of her passion for training. Eastman, who took over as secretary of the club just a couple of months ago, will prepare Aleppo Murphy for his second start back from a long spell at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. The son of Sundon has endured a string of issues that have seen him only race once since late May, having produced a solid fifth in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup last week. “We were happy with that because he was first-up for six or seven months and he’d never been over that distance (2650m) before,” Eastman said. “He only just got pipped by Tornado Valley, Save Our Pennys and Magicool and they are all good horses. We are hoping for a lot of improvement this week.” Aleppo Murphy, a winner of eight races, will start off the 10-metre mark in Friday night’s DNR Logistics Trotters Handicap (2240m, NR 70-120) for in-form driver James Herbertson. “We have changed a few things with him. We don’t have a headcheck on him anymore, which he used to really resent. We felt that it made him trot better, so this time in we have taken the headcheck off and he has been putting his head down and doesn’t seem to be so fractious before the start,” said Eastman, who trains from Shelbourne. “If James can get him away well - he is going to be out on his own because he is out of the draw - and baring incidents, he should not be far away.” Eastman said she was “absolutely loving” her new full-time position with Maryborough, which she took over from club stalwart Les Chapman. “It’s such a different role to what I’ve ever had. I’m just enjoying the real change (from) being in the finance sector most of my life,” she said. “It’s really good. I’m always surrounded by people, got a great team of volunteers and really starting to make some changes.” While Eastman’s focus will be on the opening race on Friday, many punters will be looking to the feature events on the card. Two heats of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship (1720m, NR 70-79) have drawn good fields, with runners vying for a place in the $30,000 final at Melton on November 22. There is also two Group 3 events - the Garrards Popular Alm Free For All (2240m, NR 90-120) and the Alderbaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All (2240m, NR 80-120). The nine-race card kicks off from 6.18pm. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR MORE FROM MICHELLE EASTMAN:   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Gran Chico,Harness racing

Gran Chico set for winning debut

High-priced New Zealand import Gran Chico has settled down well since arriving in Perth a fortnight ago and he looks set for a successful Australian harness racing debut when he contests the Catalano Truck and Equipment Sales Service Finance Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Now in the care of astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, Gran Chico will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, who is happy that the Bettors Delight gelding will be the sole runner off the back line. “From barrier ten there’s no horse on his outside and he’ll have time to relax before being put into the race,” Suvaljko said. “He’s a nice horse who should prove hard to beat. “I’ve watched the replays of all his races in New Zealand. He is a big horse who loves to just come into the race and he should get a good run from barrier ten. “Mike told me that the plan was, with the horse having been here for only a couple of weeks, was not to throw him in the deep end straight away (by racing in the group 2 feature for four-year-olds on Friday night). And after this week’s race, the plan is to go into the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in two weeks and then the Golden Nugget two weeks after that.” Gran Chico, who has been purchased by Jim and Wilma Giumelli, last appeared when he gave a splendid performance to finish a close fourth behind top-flight pacers Chase Auckland, Ashley Locaz and Smokin By in the Group 3 Methven Cup on October 13.  This was a 3000m stand on a rain-affected grass track and Gran Chico galloped briefly at the start before settling down in fourth place. A 5/1 chance, he dashed to the front after about 500m before surrendering the lead after a lap to the 6/4 favourite Ashley Locaz. He finished gamely along the inside. At his previous outing, nine nights earlier, Gran Chico settled in sixth position and raced in the breeze before taking the lead 1000m from home for an easy first-up victory at a 1.57.1 rate in a 1980m mobile event at Addington. That was his first appearance since June 1 when he gave a superb performance on a wet track to finish third behind Mark Purdon’s Jesse Duke in the $150,000 Group 1 Emerald at Addington. He started from the outside barrier (No. 8) on the front line and settled down in 12th and last position before starting a three-wide run from last about 1100m from home. He raced three wide for much of the final circuit and finished with great determination. Gran Chico’s chief rival on Friday night is likely to be the polemarker Dominate The Dojo, who has finished creditable thirds to Bettor Reward and Mighty Santana at his first two starts since resuming from a spell. The Kevin Keys-trained Dominate The Dojo will again be handled by Chris Lewis, who said: “He’s a consistent little horse who is always going to be about the play. He’s got gate speed and we will push forward and see what happens.” Dylan Egerton-Green will drive the Karen Thompson-trained Our Perkins, who is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. “He is racing really well and will run a bit of a race if I can find the top,” Egerton-Green said. With Suvaljko committed to drive Gran Chico, Byford trainer Courtney Burch had to find a new driver for Sergeant Oats, an impressive winner from Ocean Ridge last Friday night. Burch has engaged Gary Hall Jnr to handle Sergeant Oats, who is sure to be prominent from the No. 4 barrier.   Ken Casellas

Wildwest,Harness racing

Acid test for Wildwest

Rising star Wildwest is spot on to tackle the three rich feature events for four-year-olds, but champion trainer Gary Hall Snr says that it will be far from a stroll in the park for the New Zealand-bred gelding when he starts from barrier six in the $50,000 Catalano Truck and Equipment 4YO Championship over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. But Hall remains optimistic that Wildwest will meet the challenge with his usual zest and retain his unbeaten before he tackles the $125,000 Simmonds Steel Four-Year-Old Classic and the $200,000 Retravision Golden Nugget over the next month.   “He’s on target for all the big four-year-old classics and he seems to have all bases covered,” said Hall, who added: “From barrier six this week, he faces a real test against some very nice horses. “Wildwest is a bit nervy, light-framed and a very good mover. He can stay and he’s got speed. You don’t have to be a star to win eight in a row, but I think that Wildwest is a star. In saying that, I admit that this is a hard race and he faces a real test this week.” Wildwest, who has the services of the recently crowned winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship in Gary Hall jnr, won by big margins at his first seven starts before he had his admirers on tenterhooks at his eighth start, in a $25,000 four-year-old feature event over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week, when he began from the outside barrier (five) on the back line. Wildwest settled down in tenth position before he was sent forward, three wide, after 550m and quickly moved to the breeze outside the pacemaker Patrickthepiranha. These two geldings were locked together over the final 250m before Wildwest got up in the final stride to snatch victory by a half-head, rating 1.56.8. “I didn’t have my heart in my mouth; I always thought he was going to win,” said Hall Snr. “I know that he didn’t win by much, but on the line he was surging clear. I’m not really all that apprehensive about watching him on Friday night. But I’d like to see him maintain his unbeaten record.” The Hall stable will also be represented in this week’s event by Robbie Easton (Maddison Brown, barrier 2) and Eloquent Mach (Stuart McDonald, No. 2 on the back line). Robbie Easton has won at nine of his 26 starts and has struck a purple patch with decisive Gloucester Park victories at his past three starts. He charged home, three wide, from sixth at the bell to win easily at a 1.56.2 rate last Friday night. “Robbie Easton will go forward, but I’m not sure whether he can hold out Patrickthepiranha,” said Hall snr. “He goes good in front and we’d like to lead.” Eloquent Mach, who has won at 11 of his 22 starts, was a battling fourth behind Wildwest at Pinjarra after enjoying a cosy trip behind the pacemaker. “He was disappointing,” admitted Hall. Dylan Egerton-Green, who will handle Patrickthepiranha, and Chris Lewis, who will drive Gee Jay Kay, are looking forward optimistically to Friday night’s race. “Patrickthepiranha’s first two runs after a spell have been good and he definitely showed a lot more fitness from his first run to his second run,” Egerton-Green said. “So, I’m hoping he can keep on improving. The draw (barrier five) is a bit difficult, like it was at Pinjarra at his latest start (when the gelding showed explosive gate speed from barrier seven to burst to the front). “I’ll have to assess (my tactics) early, about what’s going on, particularly with Robbie Easton, Sangue Reale and Gee Jay Kay on his inside. They are all racing well and this will be another good test for Patrickthepiranha, who was probably a bit unlucky when beaten a half-head by Wildwest at Pinjarra. “He dropped a knee boot about 150 metres from the finish and this was in a quick quarter (26.7sec.) which didn’t help. The dropped knee boot affected him, but that’s racing. Wildwest has drawn right outside me this week and he’s probably got to do the same amount of work that I’ll need to do to get into the race. “And Wildwest is not the only horse to beat. They are all quality horses and it’s definitely a match race between the whole lot. Since his run at Pinjarra Patrickthepiranha has worked really well, and so has his stablemate Its Rock And Roll. It probably boils down to who gets the most economical run.” Gee Jay Kay, a winner at ten of his 23 starts and trained by Ross Olivieri, looms as a major player in this week’s event in which he is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. Gee Jay Kay gave an outstanding performance to win a stand over 2631m at Pinjarra on Monday of last week after galloping fiercely at the start. “I reckon he gave the leaders about 60 metres start,” Lewis said. “And I didn’t expect him to do what he did. I thought that I’d just follow them around, but when we were coming in for the bell Gee Jay Kay was travelling a bit and I thought I’d flush a couple out and just track up and see how close we could get. “Nothing came out, so I just kept going and he went on with the job really well. From barrier three this week he’s definitely going to be in play. He feels a different horse at the barrier now from what he was when I drove him at trials. He feels very confident and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets off the gate (begins fast). “It is a very good field and Wildwest doesn’t know when to give up. These horses are all going to go to fast-class. It’s a very impressive field.” The powerful Greg and Skye Bond stable will be represented by extremely smart New Zealand-bred pacers in Ana Afreet and Taroona Bromac, with the stable’s No. 1 reinsman Ryan Warwick handing punters a good tip by choosing to drive the lightly-raced Taroona Bromac, who will start from the outside of the back line. At his debut in New Zealand Taroona Bromac was narrowly beaten before scoring impressive victories at his following seven starts, the latest being last Friday night when he set the pace and coasted to victory by more than four lengths from Robb Stark. Ana Afreet, a winner at 12 of his 17 starts, is in sparkling form and will be driven by Bailey McDonough. However, he faces a stern test from out wide at barrier eight. Ken Casellas

Call him the “Crazy Burglar”, the “Deranged Intruder” or the “Insane Thief” - whatever tag you put on Mad Robber, you can add another one. On-top selection with all nine members of the WA Trotting Media Guild, with five making Mad Robber their best bet at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Former RWWA chief handicapper and now Radio Great Southern’s form expert Warren Wishart best sums up the thoughts of his colleagues and fellow Mad Robber fans - The West Australian’s Ernie Manning, TABradio’s form analyst Hayden King, Guild president Wayne Currall and The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft. “The best bet of the night comes up in race two with No.1 Mad Robber,” Wishart said. “This is astute placement by master trainer Gary Hall - it sees this horse meeting inferior opposition from the best draw. Should lead and win on a night many short-priced favourites should salute.“ Longshot guru Pat Harding believes another Hall-trained horse - the unbeaten Wildwest - will make it eight on the bounce. “ It should be a good night for favourites at GP this Friday,” Harding said. “Many have drawn favourably. My best of the night comes up in race five with Wildwest. He is without a doubt the best four-year-old in the State and while there is quite a bit of talent in the race, Wildwest from barrier six should bring home the bacon.“ Former president of the Guild and renowned form expert Ken Casellas is keen on Mighty Conqueror from the leading yard of Greg and Skye Bond. ”Mighty Conqueror was gallant in defeat a fortnight ago when he did all the work in the breeze and was nabbed in the final couple of bounds by Motu Premier,” Casellas said. “He certainly lost no admirers after that effort and he’s my best bet at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he should set the pace and prove too smart for his rivals in the Pat Cranley Memorial.” And TABradio’s racecaller Matt Young agrees. “Mighty Conqueror has the gate speed to lead and I’m expecting the five-year-old gelding to re-announce himself as the best in the State on Friday night.” Young said. VALUE BETS WARREN: I’m expecting an improved showing from Sarah Goody on Friday night. Well drawn and her best form would see her go close. Worth an each-way ticket. PAT: Simba Bromac is a talented horse due for a win. This week could see him fulfil his promise. ERNIE: Overboard Again will appreciate a class drop after running seventh last Friday night when he had difficulty getting a  clear run in the JP Stratton Cup. He has won eight Gloucester Park races. HAYDEN: Mighty Flying Deal should be at an each-way price and is racing in august fashion. If he can lead he will be hard to beat. WAYNE: Eloquent Mach will get out to a ridiculous price in the 4YO Championship. He’s often been the giantkiller and he’s drawn to get a drag into the race. RYAN: Mon Lillies takes on some in-form mares this week but will enjoy an inside draw over the sprint trip. Could surprise. KEN: For value, I suggest a solid each-way wager on Captain Mannering from barrier three in the opening event. He is a good frontrunner and his strong finishing burst to win easily from Justasec at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon was an impressive performance. MATT: Dennis has been racing well without much racing luck. He’ll be a decent price and looks a chance in an open first race to start the night. Vale “Pommy Mick” The Gloucester Park community is sad to farewell Michael “Pommy” Ditchfield. The part-owner of Destined To Rule had been battling cancer, but despite his failing health he was usually on course to cheer his horse on. And the Gods were smiling when Destined To Rule delivered for Mick at odds of 20/1 in a stand at headquarters last month. My last memory of Mick was him hooting and hollering for Destined To Rule all the way down the straight and hugging trainer and part-owner Sonia Zucchiatti as their horse saluted.  To view all of the Media Guild tips click here.   Wayne Currall

Jaspervellabeach, a star two-year-old last season when his four wins from six starts included the Group 2 Champagne Classic and the Group 1 Golden Slipper, will reappear after a four-month absence when he contests the www.sefsolutions.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Coolup owner-trainer Kristy Elson has a few concerns about the colt following his roguish behaviour in recent trials. But the style in which he set the pace and coasted to victory in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning was a strong indication that he has sound winning prospects despite drawing the outside barrier in the field of seven. He began speedily from barrier four and charged straight to the front. After a modest pace in the first lap Jaspervellabeach dashed over the final 400m sections in 29.7sec. and 27.8sec. to win, unextended, by a length from Livin La Bamba. “I have trialled him twice (at Pinjarra) when his first trial wasn’t impressive at all,” said Elson. “Then I trialled him again last Sunday when I took the blinds off him because he had the blocks on, and I put him in an open bridle. “He went straight to the front and ran good time. But he was looking around and is getting a bit bully. So, I’m not sure if he is just mucking around and it will be interesting to see how he goes (in race conditions) on Friday night. I’m not sure whether he’s mucking around just because it’s trials and not at the races or whether he’s getting a bit older and a little bit silly. “I’m not sure how he will go on Friday night. It sort of depends on what he does from the outside barrier. It will depend on how Nathan (Turvey) feels after he has warmed up. He’s a lovely horse, but I’m not putting too much pressure on him. I just want to see how he goes.  “He might need to be gelded. But, hopefully, he’s just been mucking around at trials and knows when it’s pay day. We’ll see.” Elson will also be represented in Friday night’s event for three-year-olds by Secret Operation, who will start from barrier six with Gary Hall Jnr in the sulky. Secret Operation disappointed at his third outing after a spell when, from barrier three, he raced in sixth position, one-out and two-back, before wilting to finish a well-beaten seventh behind Rock me Over in a fast-run 2130m event on Tuesday evening. That followed easy wins at Gloucester Park over 2130m and 1730m at his two previous outings, after resuming from a spell. It is possible the colt was a little underdone and should be capable of an  improved effort on Friday night when Macz Brother, a half-brother to star mare Maczaffair (63 starts for 21 wins, 19 placings and $507,497) and the speedy Golden State (30 starts for 12 wins, six placings and $146,028) should prove hard to beat at his Gloucester Park debut. Macz Brother, trained by Mike Reed and to be driven by Michael Grantham, has raced three times for wins at Pinjarra and Northam and a third placing behind Hotfoot It at Pinjarra. At his most recent appearance Macz Brother began from the back line in a 1780m event at Northam last Saturday week when he settled in seventh position, was eighth at the bell and charged to the front with 420m to travel before winning by five lengths from Pocketfulofpepper. Ace trainer-reinsman Colin Brown will be keen to add to Adda Pocket Rinse’s record of three starts for three wins when he drives the Rich And Spoilt gelding. Adda Pocket Rinse possess excellent gate speed, but could find it difficult to cross to the front from barrier five. Adding considerable interest to the race will be the return to action of Some Copper Beach, the only filly in the event who will start from the No. 4 barrier for Capel trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo. Some Copper Beach was a star two-year-old last season when her ten starts produced five wins, two seconds and a third.   Ken Casellas

Exciting five-year-old Bill Haley is capable of a bold harness racing effort in the 2130m $25,000 Pat Cranley Memorial at Gloucester Park on Friday night despite a steep rise in class, according to the New Zealand-bred gelding’s reinsman Chris Lewis. Bill Haley unleashed a spectacular finishing burst from a seemingly impossible position at the rear on the home turn to get up and snatch a remarkable victory from Hy Leexciting at a 1.55.9 rate over 2130m last Friday night. He was restrained from barrier eight and was eighth at the 250m mark before his whirlwind five-wide charge relieved the strain on the supporters of the odds-on favourite. This week Bill Haley, prepared by the champion reinsman’s wife Debra, will be seriously tested in much tougher company and from out wide at barrier seven in the field of nine. He is undefeated at three starts in Western Australia after winning at four of his final five races in Queensland. “He goes quite a lot in class and it’s another big test,” said Lewis. “It never gets easier. His main asset is his speed, but you have got to be realistic and Mighty Conqueror looks very hard to beat from barrier one. However, I still believe Bill Haley can measure up to this rise in class, whether it is this week or in three or four week’s time. “He’s certainly got a bit of class on his side and he can definitely play a bit in the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups. He has a good turn of foot and if he’s close enough, he’ll give them a bit of curry.” Mighty Conqueror, a comparatively inexperienced performer whose 21 starts have produced 14 wins and five placings, looks the winner from the prized No. 1 barrier. He moved to the breeze after a lap in the 2130m Parliamentarians Cup last Friday week and took the lead 500m from home before being overhauled in the final couple of strides by Motu Premier, who finished strongly from sixth at the bell. Chris Voak, who drives Motu Premier for Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri, said he expected another bold showing from the New Zealand-bred seven-year-old. “Ross has a plan for him to go to the Bunbury Cup in a couple of Saturdays time,” Voak said. “Barrier five is not ideal on Friday night and we will probably have to sit outside Mighty Conqueror and if he beats that pacer he will be putting his hand up to be a real good chance to win a Cup at the summer carnival.” Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond will be represented by three runners Mighty Conqueror (Ryan Warwick), Our Jimmy Johnstone (Bailey McDonough), El Jacko (Dylan Egerton-Green) and Galactic Star (Colin Brown). El Jacko is in top form and was a splendid second behind stablemate Vampiro in the Stratton Cup last Friday night when he trailed the pacemaker Major Pocket and was blocked for a clear passage until late when he finished strongly on the inside. El Jacko is awkwardly drawn at barrier six, but Egerton-Green is expecting a strong effort from the seven-year-old. “I was very happy with his performance last week and I hope he can keep earning this week,” he said. Galactic Star is a top-class performer who will be appearing for the first time since finishing at the rear in the WA Pacing Cup last January. A week earlier Galactic Star covered a lot of extra ground when a splendid second to My Field Marshal in the 2536m Fremantle Cup. The Bond stable also has solid winning claims in the $22,000 Catalano Truck and Equipment Sales Kenwick WA Pace, a 2130m event in which Mighty Santana will start from the outside in the field of eight. Mighty Santana, to be driven by Ryan Warwick, has resumed after a spell in fine style and he impressed when he worked hard before scoring a comfortable win over El Hombre last Friday night. Mighty Flying Deal, to be driven by Michael Grantham for Collie trainer Wayne Justins, will be strongly favoured from the prized No. 1 barrier. The seven-year-old is a strong frontrunner who will take plenty of catching. King of Swing, the WA Derby winner two seasons ago, will be having his final start in Western Australia when Gary Hall Jnr drives him from barrier six. King of Swing, a winner of 18 races and $474,977 in prizemoney, has a losing sequence of ten. “Win, lose or draw, this will be his final run for the stable,” said trainer Gary Hall Snr. “He will be going to Sydney where he will be trained by Luke McCarthy. “He is not suited by racing at Gloucester Park unless he leads. He is a winner of two Group 1 races, but I’m not able to get the best out of him.”   Ken Casellas

This wasn’t how November was supposed to go for Sundees Son. The reigning Trotter of the Year was the one-time favourite for both Group 1 trots of Cup week in Christchurch and the Inter Dominion, which starts at Alexandra Park a fortnight from tomorrow. Now he is heading to the spelling paddock with his tail between his legs. The freakishly-talented five-year-old galloped and lost all chance for the third race in a row in the NZ Trot Free-For-All at Addington on Tuesday and was always unlikely to start in tomorrow’s $300,000 Dominion after that. But trainers Robert and John Dunn have surrendered to Sundees Son's niggling issues and also pulled him out of the Inter Dominion and sent him for a two-month spell. “We just can’t get him right,” said John Dunn. “We keep patching him up and while his issue (fetlock joint) isn’t serious at all he has lost his confidence. “He is only a young horse and we have to do the right thing by him so hopefully he can come back for the big races in the autumn.” While Sundees Son is out of the Dominion, hot favourite Oscar Bonavena still faces a huge task starting from the unruly in a capacity field, with his three main rivals in Marcoola (barrier one), Tough Monarch (six) and McLovin (10) all drawn the front line. The Dunns will have two reps in the $200,000 NZ Pacing Free-For-All and luckless NZ Cup placegetter Classie Brigade drawn the ace. “I am not sure he would have won the Cup had we got clearer earlier but he would have got a lot closer,” Dunn says of Tuesday’s third. Dunn says he has the gate speed to try and lead tomorrow’s 1980m Goup 1 and if he was able to hold the front early he would want to stay there, as he did in the Kaikoura Cup 10 days ago. “But it may not be that easy. Cruz Bromac gets off the gate really fast, but I will be trying to hold him.” Cruz Bromac (six) has drawn inside Spankem (seven) and the tactics of that pair, who led and won the NZ Free-For-All and Miracle Mile respectively last season, will play a huge role in tomorrow’s outcome. Aussie raider Our Uncle Sam backs up after missing away in the NZ Cup on Tuesday but Victorian San Carlo will miss the free-for-all and head to Auckland for the Inter Dominion. The fields for the NZ Free-For-All at Addington tomorrow: Race 11, 5.48pm, $200,000, mobile 1980m — Classie Brigade (1), Chase Auckland (2), Our Uncle Sam (3), Henry Hubert (4), A G’s White Socks (5), Cruz Bromac (6), Spankem (7), Nandolo (8), Thefixer (9).   Michael Guerin

The rise and rise of Magicool will be put under the griller at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday night when Chris Svanosio's stable star takes on some of Victoria's best in the Aldebaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All. Fresh off superb victories punching the breeze at Melton at Melton on November 2 and then in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup the following Thursday, Magicool opened a $1.80 favourite with TAB.com.au for Friday's feature despite his outside-the-front-row draw. He's since eased to $2.25, with Jilliby Babavska shortening from from $3.80 to $2.40, a movement that won't surprise trainer-driver Svanosio. "It will be pretty tough just looking at it quickly from the draw," Svanosio told the Trots Talk radio show. "He's drawn barrier seven, he's done it pretty tough his last couple of starts, but I will still probably end up back closer to the tail of the field against some pretty good horses, so he will have to step up again to be in the finish I'd say. "You've got to have a few things go right when you are drawn out there, it will be tough, he's well, but it will be tough for him." Having said that, the lightly-raced six-year-old has shown the ability to surprise even his trainer, including with his Trots Country Cup Championship victory at his last start. "He's old enough, but he hasn't done a lot of racing. To have those two runs five days a part, sit in the chair both times and the way he finished off at Yarra Valley I was very impressed with how he handled everything," Svanosio said. "He surprised me at Yarra Valley, I didn't think he should have been able to do that - to sit there over 2600 and sprint home like he did on a pretty ordinary day. He was fantastic." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO TUNE IN TO TROTS TALK   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Trots Clubs Victoria (TCV) will begin searching for a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) after the resignation of Toby McKinnon. TCV issued a media release today announcing that McKinnon had resigned after a six-year stint with the organisation at Board and CEO level. "On behalf of all clubs, we wish Toby all the very best. I want to thank Toby for all that he has contributed to clubs and the industry," TCV president Tim Scala said. Read the full media release here McKinnon’s last day as CEO will be Friday, December 20. “I’d like to thank the TVC Executive both past and present and all the wonderful club personnel I have had the pleasure of dealing with throughout my time,” McKinnon said. HRV Marketing General Manager Andrew English said McKinnon had achieved a lot during his time with TCV. “There’s no doubt that Toby has strengthened the collaboration between the clubs and HRV, continuing the work of his predecessor in that role David Brick,” English said. “Toby was always industry-first, innovative and worked tirelessly for the benefit of clubs and the wider industry. We wish him the best for the future and hope he’s not lost to the game.”   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Fresh from their blistering one-two finish in yesterday's Trotting Free For All, Tough Monarch and McLovin have drawn front row starts in Friday's Airpark Canterbury Dominion. The $300,000 Group 1 - the richest trot race in Australasia - will launch from the standing start at 2.38pm ADST, with Tough Monarch drawing gate six and McLovin gate 10, but with two emergencies on their inside. McLovin's trainer Andy Gath told Sky Racing they "were really proud of him and he's pulled up really good, so we are looking forward to Friday now". "You travel this far and you always want your horse to perform well and he performed really well," Gath said. "The standing start over two-mile is completely different to what we had today, so far to us it looks like he's pulled up well, he'll be raring to go on Friday." Leading local fancies Marcoola (gate one) and Oscar Bonavena (gate 17) emerged at opposite ends of the draw, with the latter off the unruly. Friday's card at Addington also includes the Woodlands NZ Pacing Free For All, which will feature Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's trio Cruz Bromac (gate 6), Spankem (gate 7) and Thefixer (gate 9), who are coming off respective first, second and fifth placings in yesterday's New Zealand Trotting Cup.   HRV Trots Media

The most unlikely New Zealand Cup of champion trainer Mark Purdon’s career meant so much more because he didn’t drive the winner. Purdon provided the training quinella in the $750,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington yesterday but had to settle for second as a driver, as Cruz Bromac surged past his drive Spankem in the last 50m. But for Purdon the win means as much if not more than if he had clung on to win the race himself because of the man in the sulky behind Cruz Bromac. Blair Orange has won the last two national driver’s premierships but to any Canterbury harness racing driver, the New Zealand Cup is the holy grail and Purdon was thrilled to provide his former protege with the chance to get his hands on it. Orange was a long-time employee of Purdon’s famous All Stars barn and a close personal friend of Purdon, who has stuck by him in the toughest of times. He originally wasn’t in the frame to drive Cruz Bromac, who divides his time between Victoria and New Zealand. But through a series of events, including other horses being injured and other drivers being unavailable, Orange got his Cup with an inch-perfect display. “I am thrilled for Blair,” said Purdon. “He did a great job when he worked for us and has been very successful since he left. “So to be able to give him the drive on a Cup winner is immensley satisfying for us. He is a good guy and he deserves it.” Orange sure did after the drive he pulled off, firstly managing to negotiate the standing start safely with Cruz Bromac, who only rejoined the All Stars three weeks ago after spending the whole year in Victoria. They don’t have standing starts in Victoria any more so that first mini win was crucial.                                                                                                             -HRNZ photo Once safely away he has to wrest the lead off Classie Brigade and that could have left him vulnerable as Cruz Bromac is probably best known as a sprinter but the sedate Cup speed of 3:56.9 and the inches Orange saved around the marker pegs proved the difference. He grabbed Spankem, who had worked to the lead at the 1400m mark late and only by a neck, with Classie Brigade slightly luckless when forced to change ground in the home straight in third just ahead of Chase Auckland. Defending champion Thefixer was a battling fifth. There was great irony in Orange partnering Cruz Bromac to win as he had only driven him in public once before. That was when he failed to even qualify him in an early trial when Cruz Bromac was trained by Mark Jones before being sold to Australian interests and then coming back across this side of the Tasman to join the All Stars last year. He won the NZ Free-For-All then and could return to that race this Friday and now looms as a major contender for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park in 16 days. Cruz Bromac’s win yesterday ticked him just over $1million in stakes and suggests the Australians could have a far greater role to play in the Inter Dominions than would have been expected even a few weeks ago. The horse who beat him in the Victoria Cup three starts ago in Bling It On is being set for the Auckland series while local stars like Self Assured have fallen by the wayside and while Cruz Bromac is officially trained here he will be very much claimed by the Australians as one of their's come the Inters. For Purdon it was his seventh New Zealand Cup training success as he continues to pen new pages in the record books with no end in sight. But that wasn’t why he was smiling last night. He was beaming because of what he had done for a friend.   Michael Guerin

It’s all about team work. But just how many people have played a role in the victory of Cruz Bromac in today’s (Tuesday) Gr.1 $750,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington is the great unknown? Highly-respected horseman Dean Braun has been a constant during his rise to greatness with previous trainer Amanda Grieve also a key member of the team while leading reinsman Greg Sugars has played his part this season. Obviously, the All Stars operation of Mark Purdon have also played a significant role, this is his second stint with the all-conquering Christchurch based stable following his highly successful campaign twelve months ago. Then there’s the behind-the-scenes people that mean just as much to Cruz Bromac as the above mentioned, the ‘farriers’ on both sides of the Tasman have played a masterful roles in making sure the big-striding Falcon Seelster gelding is pacing smoothly and at his best when it counts. At times throughout his career, he’s been bumpy and awkward but when right, he’s a magnificent sight to behold. And there was no better sight than today, on the biggest stage possible, the best day on the New Zealand racing calendar. Partnered by reigning New Zealand Driver of the Year Blair Orange, he had the eight-year-old away quickly and raced alongside early leader Classie Brigade and worked for almost half a lap to find the front, before being crossed by stablemates Thefixer and then Spankem, which left Victorian hope San Carlo exposed in the breeze. Over the course of the 3200m stand-start staying feature, Orange had Cruz Bromac sitting comfortably three back against the marker pegs. Race favourite Spankem continued to control the speed while San Carlo sat without cover, defending champion Thefixer sat poised behind the leader while Mach Shard, Cruz Bromac and Classie Brigade all occupied handy spots. Approaching the home turn, San Carlo started to give ground which enabled Orange to make his move aboard Cruz Bromac and brought the multiple feature race winner with his well-timed finishing burst. At the finish, Cruz Bromac scored by a neck margin from Spankem with a length away to the unlucky Classie Brigade in third who nosed out Chase Auckland and Thefixer. The All Stars team produced four of the first five place-getters while they have now won 5 of the past 6 editions of the Cup. The winning time was 3:56.9 - the mile rate was 1:59.1 – well outside of the Cup record of 3:53.1 set by Lazarus in 2016. For winning driver, Blair Orange has finally lifted the monkey off his back. Twice crowned New Zealand Driver of the Year, it was his 10th drive in the New Zealand Cup and his maiden success. He has been placed three times previously, twice with Highview Tommy (2011/12) and also with Titan Banner (2016). His tally of lifetime victories stands close to 1900 but today’s victory is easily his biggest triumph. “This is what dreams are made of; it’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Orange stated. “I’d like thank Mark and Natalie plus the owners for the opportunity, it’s an unforgettable day.” He added. Cruz Bromac is raced in partnership by Danny and Joanna Zavitsanos, Peter and Zilla O’Shea plus Warren Viney and was bred by the late Bob McArdle of Bromac Lodge. The victory for Sydney based Peter and Zilla O’Shea continues their amazing success with major features in harness racing after previously sharing in the ownership of former North American Mr Feelgood while they currently race last start Victoria Cup winner Bling It On. The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Auckland on December 14.   Chris Barsby

It wasn’t to be for Victorian trainer-driver Bec Bartley and her popular pacer San Carlo on New Zealand Cup Day, but it is onward and upward to the Inter Dominion. “Unfortunately things didn’t go the way we expected,” Bartley said. “He appeared to have an off day as well as not handling the track 100 per cent.” Bartley, who co-trains San Carlo with Steve O’Donoghue, said the nine-year-old would “have a few light days before heading to Auckland”. Cruz Bromac produced a powerful finishing burst for driver Blair Orange to win the NZ Cup, delivering his Australian connections the silverware, while earlier in the day Tough Monarch captured the Group 1 New Zealand Trotters Free for All for New South Wales trainer Rickie Alchin and driver Anthony Butt. Victorian McLovin produced an enormous effort to finish second for the Kate and Andy Gath team. Both trotters will contest the Group 1 Dominion Trot at Addington.    HRV Trots Media

GOULBURN Valley harness racing identity, Warren Newbound, who died recently, will be remembered as a cheerful and thoughtful friend to many, and one of the true gentlemen of the sport. Warren was part of the famous Newbound family, being the son of the late Leo Newbound, who played a huge part in the sport when operating Forest Lodge firstly at Chiltern in the 1950s with his brother Kevin. The Newbound name has been to the fore for decades and Warren ensured this continued in his passion as a trainer, breeder, farrier and boot manufacturer. Well-known Shepparton trainer Laura Crossland said 57-year-old Warren, who trained out of stables nearby, was always happy and smiling. "He was such a good person. When he drove in each day he'd toot the car horn and give a big friendly wave," Laura said. "There was always a horse in his stable that he would have in work. We loved him and when we had horses racing, he'd be the first to send us a good luck message." All drivers at Cobram on Monday showed their respect by wearing black armbands in Warren Newbound's honor. His funeral will be held at St Brendan's Catholic Church at Shepparton on Monday at 11 am, with a wake afterwards at the Goulburn Valley Hotel. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ "GO Lions, Brisbane Lions...we'll kick the winning score...you'll hear our mighty roar!" And we bet there were plenty of roars (and maybe even a few renditions of the club song) in the Lions camp last weekend! Lions captain Dane Zorko and teammates Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester, along with Louie Taylor, who recently transferred to the Sydney Swans, are enthusiastic harness racing owners. They race a number of handy horses with outstanding Victorian trainer Marg Lee and her reinsman son Jason, including 5yo gelding Iam Erik (Shadow Play-Invigorate (Artsplace) who scored nicely at Melton in a time of 1.53-8. The links with the Western District Lee stable go way back, with Jason and Louie Taylor students at primary school together. "They are a fantastic group of owners. Darcy in particular just loves the sport and probably gives me a call or sends a text message nearly every day to check on the horses," Jason said. "We have three owned by the boys now. One of the others in Yankee CJ has been a good money-spinner and a few of them are in Code Bailey," he said. Marg Lee was at her best at the Melton meeting with a training treble- which took her to an outstanding personal career milestone of preparing 500 winners. While Jason is Lions through-and-through, Marg, despite her association with the star Lions, cannot be swayed and remains a devoted Carlton supporter. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ CRACK Queensland reinsman Pete McMullen is seeing the funny side of a bizarre incident at Hobart last weekend during the Australian Drivers Championship series. McMullen was driving the ominously-named Awayandrideyourself and was fortunately uninjured in the incident, which occurred just 100 metres from the finish in the third heat of the Championship series. Confident punters could have been excused for heading to the bar when the pair, sent out warm favorites, were sitting pretty in fourth spot rounding the home corner and in the clear running out wide. But as the race caller spotted Awayandrideyourself about to stake his claims, disaster struck when McMullen's sulky seat gave way and dumped the driver onto the track. As he slipped from the sulky, McMullen kept hold of the pacer and was pulled upright again to find himself momentarily doing some "skiing", before tumbling ungraciously to the track. Video from punters.com.au Somehow McMullen ended up with only some scrapes and bruises and was cleared fit to continue driving during the night. "The seat slipped off, which wasn't anyone's fault. It was just a gear malfunction and I'm all good," he said later. "Thankfully I was out wide at the time with none of the other runners tracking me." McMullen said it was the first time he'd experienced a "seat slip" - and hoped it was his last! McMullen (who had 192 wins last year and is enjoying a handy start to the season, with about 30 so far) won the inaugural National Driver's Championship for Qld in 2014 - but the incident didn't help his cause this year, finishing eighth. Gary Hall Jnr took the title for WA (77 points) well clear of Mark Yole (Tas) and Darby McGuigan (Vic)   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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A wild hunch by Tongala-based harness racing trainer Michael Watt has proved a winning one with stable newcomer Miss McManus. The eight-year-old former pacing mare (Grinfromeartoear-Tasma Walton (Walton Hanover) showed at Cobram on Monday that she should have a bright future as a square-gaiter - just six weeks after switching gait. "She's owned by Norm and Joan Visca and I still remember when I rang and told them I'd decided to give the horse a try as a trotter - to be honest I think they thought I was crazy!" Watt said. "But she had showed me at home that she was quite comfortable trotting so I was confident I was on the right track," he said. Watt's decision was vindicated when Miss McManus didn't put a foot wrong first-up to take out the Cliff Robinson Memorial Trot at Cobram in a handy mile rate of 2.02-6. Driven by Damian Wilson, the mare accelerated nicely at the start to lead, but soon afterwards handed up to $2.60 favorite Bacardi Wood (Gary Pekin). Wilson waited patiently for the sprint lane and zipped through to win by 1.3 metres. Owners Norm and Joan Visca (left) accept the trophy from representatives of the Robinson family, Andrew, Caroline and Debbie As a pacer, Miss McManus had 65 starts for three wins and 14 placings. During her career she has been trained by father-and-son Brian and Matthew Gath, South Australians Kevin Walker and Mark Delaney, and Wilson himself. Watt said there was "a bit of a funny story" in regard to how he initially got the mare. "I had a few trotters in my stable and decided I needed a pacer to train, so I approached Norm (Visca) and he offered me Miss McManus," he said. "So in just six weeks, I jogged her up, switched her to a trotter, got her qualified and won with her with my good mate Damo taking the reins - it's surreal to look back on it," he said. However, Watt did admit he had some early disappointment at the trials when Miss McManus went back to her old habits and paced away in a standing start. "But I gave her a few more trials, including one at Shepparton a few days before the Cobram race and she did everything perfect and ran a close-up second," he said. And the recent victory is not the first time Watt has tasted success by switching gaits with a pacer. In the 1990s, he took on six-year old pacer Grimster, already a winner of three races in his 80 starts. He converted Grimster to trotting and trialled, raced and won with him two months later, going on to a further four wins as a square-gaiter. Watt is related to the renowned Conroy family, of Daylesford, who are noted specialists with trotters. "I grew up with the late Bob Conroy's kids Glenn and Anne-Maree, so I was always going to have a love for the square gaiters," he said. "Bob was an absolute legend and I've written down in a book all the things that he told me. "He was a marvel- a man well before his time. I reckon he would have been chuffed looking down on us last Monday!" Watt said as well, he'd picked up valuable information over the years from his dad John, a long-time trainer, who still prepares one or two as a hobby. He also paid tribute to the Visca couple, adding the industry needed "hundreds of owners like them". "They support their trainers to the max and they just enjoy being part of the sport." Watt works on a 25-acre property with gallops trainer Bluey Thomas. It boasts an 800 metre track, along with other facilities including a swim, walker and treadmill. Watt rates Great Success-sired gelding Dynamic Legacy (five wins, 15 placings for $44,000) as his best horse at present.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura
Michelle Eastman is thriving in her new role with the Maryborough Harness Racing Club, but hasn’t let the job get in the way of her passion for training. Eastman, who took over as secretary of the club just a couple of months ago, will prepare Aleppo Murphy for his second start back from a long spell at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. The son of Sundon has endured a string of issues that have seen him only race once since late May, having produced a solid fifth in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup last week. “We were happy with that because he was first-up for six or seven months and he’d never been over that distance (2650m) before,” Eastman said. “He only just got pipped by Tornado Valley, Save Our Pennys and Magicool and they are all good horses. We are hoping for a lot of improvement this week.” Aleppo Murphy, a winner of eight races, will start off the 10-metre mark in Friday night’s DNR Logistics Trotters Handicap (2240m, NR 70-120) for in-form driver James Herbertson. “We have changed a few things with him. We don’t have a headcheck on him anymore, which he used to really resent. We felt that it made him trot better, so this time in we have taken the headcheck off and he has been putting his head down and doesn’t seem to be so fractious before the start,” said Eastman, who trains from Shelbourne. “If James can get him away well - he is going to be out on his own because he is out of the draw - and baring incidents, he should not be far away.” Eastman said she was “absolutely loving” her new full-time position with Maryborough, which she took over from club stalwart Les Chapman. “It’s such a different role to what I’ve ever had. I’m just enjoying the real change (from) being in the finance sector most of my life,” she said. “It’s really good. I’m always surrounded by people, got a great team of volunteers and really starting to make some changes.” While Eastman’s focus will be on the opening race on Friday, many punters will be looking to the feature events on the card. Two heats of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship (1720m, NR 70-79) have drawn good fields, with runners vying for a place in the $30,000 final at Melton on November 22. There is also two Group 3 events - the Garrards Popular Alm Free For All (2240m, NR 90-120) and the Alderbaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All (2240m, NR 80-120). The nine-race card kicks off from 6.18pm. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR MORE FROM MICHELLE EASTMAN:   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor
High-priced New Zealand import Gran Chico has settled down well since arriving in Perth a fortnight ago and he looks set for a successful Australian harness racing debut when he contests the Catalano Truck and Equipment Sales Service Finance Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Now in the care of astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, Gran Chico will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, who is happy that the Bettors Delight gelding will be the sole runner off the back line. “From barrier ten there’s no horse on his outside and he’ll have time to relax before being put into the race,” Suvaljko said. “He’s a nice horse who should prove hard to beat. “I’ve watched the replays of all his races in New Zealand. He is a big horse who loves to just come into the race and he should get a good run from barrier ten. “Mike told me that the plan was, with the horse having been here for only a couple of weeks, was not to throw him in the deep end straight away (by racing in the group 2 feature for four-year-olds on Friday night). And after this week’s race, the plan is to go into the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in two weeks and then the Golden Nugget two weeks after that.” Gran Chico, who has been purchased by Jim and Wilma Giumelli, last appeared when he gave a splendid performance to finish a close fourth behind top-flight pacers Chase Auckland, Ashley Locaz and Smokin By in the Group 3 Methven Cup on October 13.  This was a 3000m stand on a rain-affected grass track and Gran Chico galloped briefly at the start before settling down in fourth place. A 5/1 chance, he dashed to the front after about 500m before surrendering the lead after a lap to the 6/4 favourite Ashley Locaz. He finished gamely along the inside. At his previous outing, nine nights earlier, Gran Chico settled in sixth position and raced in the breeze before taking the lead 1000m from home for an easy first-up victory at a 1.57.1 rate in a 1980m mobile event at Addington. That was his first appearance since June 1 when he gave a superb performance on a wet track to finish third behind Mark Purdon’s Jesse Duke in the $150,000 Group 1 Emerald at Addington. He started from the outside barrier (No. 8) on the front line and settled down in 12th and last position before starting a three-wide run from last about 1100m from home. He raced three wide for much of the final circuit and finished with great determination. Gran Chico’s chief rival on Friday night is likely to be the polemarker Dominate The Dojo, who has finished creditable thirds to Bettor Reward and Mighty Santana at his first two starts since resuming from a spell. The Kevin Keys-trained Dominate The Dojo will again be handled by Chris Lewis, who said: “He’s a consistent little horse who is always going to be about the play. He’s got gate speed and we will push forward and see what happens.” Dylan Egerton-Green will drive the Karen Thompson-trained Our Perkins, who is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. “He is racing really well and will run a bit of a race if I can find the top,” Egerton-Green said. With Suvaljko committed to drive Gran Chico, Byford trainer Courtney Burch had to find a new driver for Sergeant Oats, an impressive winner from Ocean Ridge last Friday night. Burch has engaged Gary Hall Jnr to handle Sergeant Oats, who is sure to be prominent from the No. 4 barrier.   Ken Casellas
Rising star Wildwest is spot on to tackle the three rich feature events for four-year-olds, but champion trainer Gary Hall Snr says that it will be far from a stroll in the park for the New Zealand-bred gelding when he starts from barrier six in the $50,000 Catalano Truck and Equipment 4YO Championship over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. But Hall remains optimistic that Wildwest will meet the challenge with his usual zest and retain his unbeaten before he tackles the $125,000 Simmonds Steel Four-Year-Old Classic and the $200,000 Retravision Golden Nugget over the next month.   “He’s on target for all the big four-year-old classics and he seems to have all bases covered,” said Hall, who added: “From barrier six this week, he faces a real test against some very nice horses. “Wildwest is a bit nervy, light-framed and a very good mover. He can stay and he’s got speed. You don’t have to be a star to win eight in a row, but I think that Wildwest is a star. In saying that, I admit that this is a hard race and he faces a real test this week.” Wildwest, who has the services of the recently crowned winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship in Gary Hall jnr, won by big margins at his first seven starts before he had his admirers on tenterhooks at his eighth start, in a $25,000 four-year-old feature event over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week, when he began from the outside barrier (five) on the back line. Wildwest settled down in tenth position before he was sent forward, three wide, after 550m and quickly moved to the breeze outside the pacemaker Patrickthepiranha. These two geldings were locked together over the final 250m before Wildwest got up in the final stride to snatch victory by a half-head, rating 1.56.8. “I didn’t have my heart in my mouth; I always thought he was going to win,” said Hall Snr. “I know that he didn’t win by much, but on the line he was surging clear. I’m not really all that apprehensive about watching him on Friday night. But I’d like to see him maintain his unbeaten record.” The Hall stable will also be represented in this week’s event by Robbie Easton (Maddison Brown, barrier 2) and Eloquent Mach (Stuart McDonald, No. 2 on the back line). Robbie Easton has won at nine of his 26 starts and has struck a purple patch with decisive Gloucester Park victories at his past three starts. He charged home, three wide, from sixth at the bell to win easily at a 1.56.2 rate last Friday night. “Robbie Easton will go forward, but I’m not sure whether he can hold out Patrickthepiranha,” said Hall snr. “He goes good in front and we’d like to lead.” Eloquent Mach, who has won at 11 of his 22 starts, was a battling fourth behind Wildwest at Pinjarra after enjoying a cosy trip behind the pacemaker. “He was disappointing,” admitted Hall. Dylan Egerton-Green, who will handle Patrickthepiranha, and Chris Lewis, who will drive Gee Jay Kay, are looking forward optimistically to Friday night’s race. “Patrickthepiranha’s first two runs after a spell have been good and he definitely showed a lot more fitness from his first run to his second run,” Egerton-Green said. “So, I’m hoping he can keep on improving. The draw (barrier five) is a bit difficult, like it was at Pinjarra at his latest start (when the gelding showed explosive gate speed from barrier seven to burst to the front). “I’ll have to assess (my tactics) early, about what’s going on, particularly with Robbie Easton, Sangue Reale and Gee Jay Kay on his inside. They are all racing well and this will be another good test for Patrickthepiranha, who was probably a bit unlucky when beaten a half-head by Wildwest at Pinjarra. “He dropped a knee boot about 150 metres from the finish and this was in a quick quarter (26.7sec.) which didn’t help. The dropped knee boot affected him, but that’s racing. Wildwest has drawn right outside me this week and he’s probably got to do the same amount of work that I’ll need to do to get into the race. “And Wildwest is not the only horse to beat. They are all quality horses and it’s definitely a match race between the whole lot. Since his run at Pinjarra Patrickthepiranha has worked really well, and so has his stablemate Its Rock And Roll. It probably boils down to who gets the most economical run.” Gee Jay Kay, a winner at ten of his 23 starts and trained by Ross Olivieri, looms as a major player in this week’s event in which he is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. Gee Jay Kay gave an outstanding performance to win a stand over 2631m at Pinjarra on Monday of last week after galloping fiercely at the start. “I reckon he gave the leaders about 60 metres start,” Lewis said. “And I didn’t expect him to do what he did. I thought that I’d just follow them around, but when we were coming in for the bell Gee Jay Kay was travelling a bit and I thought I’d flush a couple out and just track up and see how close we could get. “Nothing came out, so I just kept going and he went on with the job really well. From barrier three this week he’s definitely going to be in play. He feels a different horse at the barrier now from what he was when I drove him at trials. He feels very confident and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets off the gate (begins fast). “It is a very good field and Wildwest doesn’t know when to give up. These horses are all going to go to fast-class. It’s a very impressive field.” The powerful Greg and Skye Bond stable will be represented by extremely smart New Zealand-bred pacers in Ana Afreet and Taroona Bromac, with the stable’s No. 1 reinsman Ryan Warwick handing punters a good tip by choosing to drive the lightly-raced Taroona Bromac, who will start from the outside of the back line. At his debut in New Zealand Taroona Bromac was narrowly beaten before scoring impressive victories at his following seven starts, the latest being last Friday night when he set the pace and coasted to victory by more than four lengths from Robb Stark. Ana Afreet, a winner at 12 of his 17 starts, is in sparkling form and will be driven by Bailey McDonough. However, he faces a stern test from out wide at barrier eight. Ken Casellas
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