Day At The Track

Bond seeks fourth WA Derby

05:45 PM 02 Apr 2020 NZDT
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Greg Bond,Harness racing
Paceway photography

Forrestdale trainer Greg Bond has enjoyed outstanding success over the past 20 years with pacers he has purchased from New Zealand and he is hoping history will repeat itself when he starts handsome colt Howard Hughes in the $200,000 Sky Racing WA Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Bond, who prepares the lightly-raced Howard Hughes in partnership with his wife Skye, has won the Group 1 WA Derby with Richard Henry (2005), In The Force (2009) and Seel N Print (2011) after they were unplaced in the major Derby lead-up event, the Western Gateway Pace.

Richard Henry was sixth in the Western Gateway Pace, In The Force finished fourth and Seel N Print was eighth.

Howard Hughes had a very tough run when a wilting eighth in the Western Gateway Pace last Friday week, but he has the class to bounce back in the Derby, particularly after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier in the 2536m classic.

He started out wide at barrier No. 9 at his most recent appearance when he raced three wide for about 600m before moving to the breeze outside the pacemaker Major Martini and then dropping back in the final stages.

Howard Hughes, whose eight starts have produced six wins and one second placing, is the eleventh foal out of the Falcon Seelster mare Heavenly Franco and is bred to be a Derby winner. His maternal great granddam Heather Franco produced star pacers Franco Hat Trick and Franco Heir.

Franco Hat Trick won the New South Wales Derby at Harold Park in April 1997 and was also successful in the Chariots of Fire 12 months after that and retired with earnings of $659,210 from 30 wins and 64 placings. Franco Heir won the NSW Derby in May 2001 and earned $392,272 from 19 wins and 16 placings.

On Friday night Howard Hughes will have the luxury of starting from the No. 1 barrier for the first time in his brief career. He possesses excellent gate speed and Ryan Warwick is sure to attempt to take full advantage of the inside draw.

Howard Hughes started from barrier two at his WA debut, in a 2185m event at Pinjarra on January 13 this year when he set the pace and romped home an easy winner by just under five lengths from Lord Rosco. He then won at each of his next four outings when he started from barriers six, five (twice) and nine.

He did not race as a two-year-old and had two starts in New Zealand late last year for an easy debut victory over 2000m at Addington on October 18 and a head second to four-year-old Ascalabus over 1980m on the same track on November 12.

On debut, he started from barrier eight, settled in fourth place five lengths from the leader before dashing to the front 1150m from home and winning by almost two lengths from four-year-old The Guild.

At his next start, he wasn’t bustled early from barrier seven before surging forward to move into the breeze after 450m. He got to the front 500m from home and fought on grandly when second to Ascalabus, who rated 1.56.6.

The Bond stable will also be represented in Friday night’s Derby by Patronus Star, a winner at three of his eight starts who will be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green from the advantageous draw on the inside of the back line, immediately behind Howard Hughes.    

Patronus Star made a fine Australian debut when he started from barrier two, set the pace and sprinted over the final 800m in 55.3sec. to win by just over two lengths from Hes Royal Blue at a 1.53.2 rate over 1609m at Bunbury last Saturday week.  

Looming as a massive threat to Howard Hughes and Patronus Star is the brilliant Major Martini, who is in devastating form for Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice and is favourably drawn at barrier two on the back line.

Major Martini has won in dashing style at his past two starts and will be handled by champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, who has won five of the past seven WA Derbies scoring with Alta Christiano, Beaudiene Boaz, Chicago Bull, King of Swing and Major Trojan.

Major Martini, driven by Prentice, ran a tremendous Derby trial last Friday night when he started from the No. 2 barrier in the Group 2 Western Gateway Pace, set the pace and won by three and a half lengths from his stablemate Gardys Legacy.

Two weeks before that, Major Martini also started from barrier two in the Group 2 Sales Classic when he raced in third position, three back on the pegs, before being eased off the pegs at the bell,, hitting the front 380m from home and racing away to win by five lengths from stablemate Manning.

Major Martini is a superb sit-sprinter who is sure to prove very hard to beat. Prentice will also be represented in the Derby by Gardys Legacy and Aristocratic Star.

Aiden de Campo will handle Gardys Legacy (a winner at five of his ten starts) from the No. 2 barrier on the front line, while Aristocratic Star (a winner at five of his 17 starts) will start from the No. 4 barrier, with Stuart McDonald in the sulky.

Aristocratic Star warmed up in style for this week’s classic with a strong finishing effort to win the $30,000 Country Derby over 2569m from the pacemaker Bee Jays Boy at Bunbury on Saturday night. He sprinted over the final 400m in 27.7sec.


Ken Casellas

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