Day At The Track

Motu Premier on the way up

04:00 PM 09 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Motu Premier, harness racing
Motu Premier will have his final start on Friday night before the TABtouch Inter Dominion Series.
Gloucester Park Photo

Champion harness racing reinsman Chris Lewis declares that five-year-old Motu Premier is on the way up and eight-time premiership trainer Ross Olivieri is similarly excited at the gelding’s progress.

The New Zealand-bred Motu Premier will have his final start before contesting the rich TABtouch Inter Dominion championship series, starting with the first set of heats on November 24, when he contests the $25,000 HLB Mann Judd Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Motu Premier is awkwardly drawn at barrier seven on the front line, but he has the ability to overcome this disadvantage --- and he is sure to appreciate not having to race against top-flight pacers Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca this week.

He maintained his excellent form last Friday night when he started from the No. 5 barrier in the group 2 James Brennan Memorial and raced in sixth place in the one-wide line before Lewis urged him forward, three wide, with 550m to travel. He finished strongly into third place behind Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca, with the final quarters in the 2536m event being covered in 28.4sec. and 26.7sec.

That was his third run after a two-month break and followed a first-up victory over Condrieu and a close second to American Boy after racing wide early and then in the breeze.

Olivieri admitted that he was happy that Motu Premier would not be clashing with Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca this week. But he was quick to point out that Motu Premier had made up ground on those two stars in the final circuit last week.

“Barrier seven is not perfect this week, but the way he finished last week, pulling ground off both those horses, was heartening,” he said. “And we met them on not very favourable terms.”

Olivieri said that Motu Premier had raced four times in Sydney earlier this year after arriving from New Zealand and then had six runs in WA before being sent for a welcome spell.

“He didn’t miss a beat when he got here before I gave him a little break,” he said. “He laid down for the first five days and then he got up and terrorized the other horses in the paddock. Now he’s on track for the Inters and is only one good barrier draw away from a win.”

Lewis said that he gave Motu Premier a good winning chance this week. “From barrier seven, he’s got options,” he said. “He faces a bit of a task from the wide draw, but I’d certainly put him in the mix. He’s a nice horse on the way up and is heading nicely towards the Inters when I think he will be at his peak.”

Lewis and Olivieri have plenty of respect for the opposition this week in a race in which The Bucket List, Condrieu, Shandale, Major Reality and Vultan Tin will have admirers.

Michael Grantham gave a strong indication that he would drive The Bucket List conservatively and would rely on a powerful finishing burst.

The Bucket List is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line and is unlikely to get to an early lead, considering that Ryan Warwick appears certain to make full use of Condrieu’s blistering gate speed from barrier four and Colin Brown could also make a bold bid for early ascendancy with the speedy beginner Sokys Bigbullet.

The Bucket List, trained by Michael Brennan, ran an excellent trial for Friday night’s race when he finished a close second to Tommy Be Good in the Don Randall Memorial Cup over 2631m at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon.

He raced in sixth position in the one-wide line before he started a three-wide move with 850m to travel. He took a narrow lead on the home turn and was overhauled in the final couple of strides, with the winner Tommy Be Good setting a track record.

“They went 28.3sec. down the back, they broke the track record and we just got nutted,” Grantham said. “He’ll go well on Friday night.”

Coolup trainer Phil Costello has engaged Morgan Woodley to handle Vultan Tin, with Chris Voak opting to drive the Olivieri-trained Jambiani. Vultan Tin gave a superb performance last Friday night when he started from barrier seven, dashed to the front after 550m and scored an impressive victory by more than four lengths, rating 1.56.4 over the 2536m journey.

Woodley, who has enjoyed considerable success in the sulky behind Vultan Tin, said that the gelding had exceeded his expectations. “He has gone from strength to strength and what Phil has achieved with him has been phenomenal,” he said.

Ken Casellas

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