Prentice patience pays off in the Derby
Talented reinsman Justin Prentice’s plan of opting out of the early speed battles and conserving Mighty Ronaldo’s energy for the final stages paid handsome dividends when the WA-bred gelding unleashed a supercharged finishing burst to score a decisive victory in the $200,000 WA Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Mighty Ronaldo, third favourite at $7.50, was under lock and key, hemmed in on the inside in seventh position, four back on the pegs, turning into the back straight in the final lap.
But the 32-year-old Prentice did not panic and he was able to manoeuvre Mighty Ronaldo off the pegs with about 500m to travel and the son of former superstar pacer and the 2013 WA Derby winner Alta Christiano sprinted powerfully, out four wide on the home turn, to burst to the front with 100m to travel before winning by two lengths from the $2.20 favourite Jumpingjackmac, with a neck to Sugar Street ($21) in third place, a length ahead of $2.50 second fancy Lavra Joe.
“We didn’t chase them early because they were going a bit quick,” said Prentice. “I didn’t want to rev him up out of the gate. I thought that I would have had to open him up if I tried to get over Sugar Street (at barrier one), and with the sectionals I expected they would be running I considered that the fence was the place to be and just hope that we would get luck late in the race.
“I was a bit concerned when we were four fence, not three fence, but it was still worth risking losing a spot to save some energy until late.”
Sugar Street led early for Chris Voak before Gary Hall jnr urged Jumpingjackmac forward from barrier four to take the lead after about 400m. Lavra Joe, attempting his sixth win in a row, started from the inside of the back line and Chris Lewis got him away from the inside moments after the start and the colt settled down in eleventh position in the one-wide line.
Otis (Dylan Egerton-Green) dashed forward in the first lap to move to the breeze before Lavra Joe surged forward, three wide, to move to the outside of the pacemaking Jumpingjackmac.
Lavra Joe fought on strongly to move level with Jumpingjackmac about 220m from home, but he wilted in the home straight.
Prentice said that winning the Derby helped to relieve the great disappointment of finishing second a close second with Major Martini in the big race 12 months earlier. Hall was in the sulky behind the Prentice-trained Major Martini, who dashed to the front 550m from home and was beaten in the final stride by the fast-finishing Patronus Star.
Prentice admitted that he had not watched a replay of the 2020 Derby because he was still saddened by the narrow defeat. “It’s hard when you’re excited the whole way down the straight until the most important part,” he said. “But I was super proud of the horse because he ran as good as he could, and he tried his heart out.”
Prentice, one of the State’s best reinsmen, concentrates on training in recent times and prefers Hall to drive his pacers, particularly in major feature events. But Hall opted to handle Jumpingjackmac, who is prepared by his father Gary Hall snr.
“Junior and I are really good mates and obviously, I love him to drive my horses, but he has his commitments with his Dad and the stable’s horses,” Prentice explained.
For Prentice this was his second success in a WA Derby. He drove Im Victorious to an all-the-way victory for trainer Michael Brennan in the classic in 2012. “I get a bigger thrill out of training, because you put so much into it,” he said.
Mighty Ronaldo, bred by Trevor Lindsay, was purchased for $22,000 at the 2019 Perth APG yearling sale and is raced by a syndicate of 20 harness racing enthusiasts, including Prentice, who chose the youngster at the sale. The gelding, who also won the group 1 Golden Slipper last July, has earned $270,255 from five wins and six placings from 17 starts.
Mighty Ronaldo rated 1.56.1 which broke the race record of 1.56.4, held jointly by Chicago Bull (2016) and Patronus Star (2020). He is out of the New Zealand-bred mare Millwoods Delight, who raced 47 times for six wins, nine placings and stakes of $49,648.
Prentice said that Mighty Ronaldo would be set for several upcoming feature events for three-year-olds, including the $50,000 Pearl Classic on May 21, the $50,000 APG Championship on May 28 and the $100,000 Westbred Classic for colts and gelding on June 18.
Howlett knows how to pick a winner
Busselton trainer Barry Howlett is a keen judge of breeding and horseflesh and he has no regrets that he paid the top price of $52,500 at the 2018 Perth APG yearling sale for a filly by champion stallion Bettors Delight out of the Lombo Mandingo mare Maddy White.
Now a four-year-old mare named Star of Diamonds, she has earned $112,976 from seven wins and 12 placings from 33 starts.
Star Of Diamonds, second favourite at $6.10, relished her first appearance in a stand when she began with great alacrity from the 10m line to charge straight to the front before setting a fast pace and scoring an easy win in the group 3 Sky Racing Replays Laurie Kennedy Race For Roses at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Her task was made easy when the $1.65 favourite Alice Kay broke into a gallop after pacing for the first few strides and dropped back through the field.
Chris Voak took full advantage of Alice Kay’s misdemeanour and he urged Star Of Diamonds past frontmarker Bettor Pack It to take up the running. After solid quarters of 30.4sec., 28.8sec., 28.2sec. and 28.8sec. Star Of Diamonds rated a smart 1.59.8 over the 2503m journey.
Alice Kay settled down in eighth position before Gary Hall jnr sent her forward in the first lap to race without cover. Alice Kay wilted after her hard run and finished ninth.
Alice Kay beat $8.50 chance Savvy Bromac, who started off 20m and was eighth at the bell before finishing powerfully to be an eye-catching second, almost a length ahead of the third placegetter, the Howlett-trained Somebeachparty, who fought on gamely after enjoying an ideal passage, one-out and one-back.
Star Of Diamonds certainly has inherited much of the ability of her dam Maddy White, who earned $110,824 from 11 wins and 20 placings from 51 starts.
Star Of Diamonds completed a double for Voak, who guided Perfect Major, the $1.70 favourite, an all-the-way victory in the 2130m Sky Racing Active Pace.
Perfect Major, who is developing into a contender for rich feature events at the summer carnival, has raced seven times in WA for trainer Ross Olivieri for seven wins to improve his record to 37 starts for 15 wins, 11 placings and stakes of $184,246.
He sped over the final 800m in 56sec. and rated 1.55.1 in beating Chiaroscuro by a neck.
Rock Me Over is an iron horse
Six-year-old Rock Me Over is proving to be one of the State’s greatest iron horses, who at Gloucester Park on Friday night celebrated his 38TH start in the past 42 weeks with his 22ND victory in his 130-start career.
Serpentine trainer Matt Scott, who owns Rock Me Over in partnership with Tony Maguire and his son Ian, said that the WA-bred gelding was enjoying his latest 38-start campaign, and that he ranked as probably the most consistent pacer he has prepared.
“He has been racing week-in and week-out since last July and is very sound,” Scott said. “And he will continue to poke around. His work has been really good, and on Wednesday he beat Qtown Rip Roaring by three lengths.
“Qtown Rip Roaring ran second tonight (beaten a head by Space Junk) and the two horses share a paddock and get on very well.”
Scott said that Rock Me Over ranked alongside Always Arjay and Jaxon Fella as the most consistent pacers he has trained. Always Arjay won 16 times for Scott, including seven metropolitan-class victories, while Jaxon Fella’s 13 wins for Scott included eight in city-class company.
Rock Me Over is proving a marvellous bargain for Scott and the Maguire family, who bought him for $6000 just over two years ago. The Rock N Roll Heaven gelding has had 84 starts for his new owners for 11 wins, 17 seconds and 15 thirds for stakes of $198,412. Rock Me Over’s career record now stands at 130 starts for 22 wins, 45 placings and stakes of $323,966.
Tony Maguire is thrilled at Rock Me Over’s continuing success and he has purchased Gee Smith, a four-year-old Sportswriter gelding who has raced 23 times in Victoria for four wins and three placings.
“Gee Smith has been here for about five weeks and he is ready to make his WA debut in the next week or two,” said Scott.
Rock Me Over was the second fancy at $4.10 in Friday night’s event, the Skyharness Pace, in which he was driven confidently by Shannon Suvaljko. Rock Me Over started from the No. 1 barrier and led for the first 60m before $81 outsider Talkerup began speedily from the No. 9 barrier charged to the front.
Emily Suvaljko then surrendered the lead to Rock Me Over about 250m later, giving the veteran mare an ideal trail behind the pacemaker. Talkerup finished solidly to be second behind Rock Me Over, who rated 1.57.8 over the 2536m trip in which the final 800m was covered in 56.9sec.
Space Junk’s first win for Inwood
Seven-year-old Victorian-bred gelding Space Junk, who fractured his pelvis three years ago, broke through for his first win at his ninth start for his new trainer Giles Inwood when master reinsman Chris Lewis drove him to a narrow victory in the 2130m Sky Racing Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Space Junk, the $1.80 favourite from the No. 2 barrier, was beaten for the early lead by the polemarker Twentynine Twelve ($8.50), and Lewis was quite content to rate Space Junk in the breeze, and after a 28.1sec. third quarter, he sent Space Junk to the front 400m from home.
Qtown Rip Roaring, a $7.50 chance, raced three back on the pegs and was badly blocked for a clear run until the final stages, when he finished fast to fail by a head to overhaul Space Junk, who covered the final 400m in 29.1sec. and rated 1.57.9.
Space Junk won five times from his 12 starts in Victoria and now has earned $123,261 from 16 wins and nine placings from 49 starts. By American stallion Dawn Ofa New Day, Space Junk is the first foal out of Always Lacking and is a half-brother to Withoutthetuh, who finished second to Babyface Adda in the Northam Cup in March and has a record of 29 starts for ten wins, 11 placings and stakes of $76,800.
Vespa flies home from last
New Zealand-bred five-year-old Vespa caused a minor upset at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he started at $13.50 and charged home from last 700m from home to get up and snatch a neck victory over $17 chance Euphoric Moment in the 2536m In The Gig On Sky Racing Pace.
Vespa, a Mach Three gelding trained by Michael Young and driven by Emily Suvaljko, started from barrier four and raced at the rear in the field of eight before he flew home, out five wide to defeat Euphoric Moment, who sustained a powerful three-wide burst from the rear at the bell to hit the front in the final 50m.
Parmesan, the $1.34 favourite at his first appearance for three months, was untroubled to set the pace from the No. 1 barrier. But he wilted in the final stages to finish fourth.
Vespa, a winner of four races in New Zealand, has now had eight starts for Young in WA for three wins and two placings. Young completed a good weekend when he was successful with Medieval Man, driven by Gary Hall jnr, at Bunbury on Saturday night.
Valhalla Miss enhances her Diamond prospects
Valhalla Miss, produced in fine fettle by Byford trainer Linda Hamilton for her first appearance for two months, gave further proof that she will be a leading contender for the $100,000 Diamond Classic on May 28 when she scored an impressive victory in the 1730m In The Gig Pace for two-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Kyle Harper got Valhalla Miss away to a flying start from the No. 5 barrier and the Fly Like An Eagle filly set a solid pace and won convincingly by just over a half-length from debutant Beyond The Sea, rating 1.57.4.
Valhalla Miss went into the field of eight as the only winner, having won at her two previous starts in February after her first-up second to Wonderful To Fly earlier in the month. However, despite that excellent form, she started at the attractive odds of $3.70, with Sovrana, drawn to her outside at barrier No. 6 the favourite at $2.50.
The excellent price about Valhalla Miss probably was because she had been unplaced in two 1684m Pinjarra trials in the weeks leading up to Friday night’s race. Purchased at the 2020 APG Perth yearling sale by Linda and Barry Hamilton for $17,500, the filly now has earned $78,191 from three wins and a second from four starts.
Sovrana raced in fifth position in the one-out, one-back position and did not threaten danger, finishing fourth.
Sagano bred to succeed
A few years ago, leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond enjoyed considerable success with New Zealand-bred mares Jungle Genie and Jungle Jewel, and it came as no surprise that Sagano, a half-sister to those talented mares, won the Sky Racing Pace over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Sagano, a five-year-old by Christian Cullen raced by his New Zealand breeder Craig McConchie and Greg Bond, is a slim, lightly-framed mare who raced 23 times in New Zealand for five wins and three placings.
At her third appearance in Western Australia, she was the $2.40 favourite for Greg and Skye Bond and star reinsman Ryan Warwick, who drove her to an all-the-way victory over $6 chance Deeorse, rating 2.0.8 after final quarters of 27.6sec. and 28.9sec.
Her dam Jungle Jane had 43 starts for six wins, ten placings and stakes of $58,371. Jungle Jane produced Jungle Genie, who had 119 starts for 23 wins, 31 placings and $284,354, and Jungle Jewel, whose 81 starts resulted in 16 wins, 30 placings and stakes of $238,877.
The Bonds won 17 races with Jungle Genie and enjoyed 15 wins with Jungle Jewel.
Shanway makes his mark in WA
The much-travelled six-year-old Shanway arrived in Western Australia a couple of months ago after winning races in New Zealand, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales --- and he celebrated his third appearance in WA with a smart victory in the Follow@skyracing.com.au on Twitter Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Trained and driven by 20-year-old Corey Peterson, Shanway, second favourite at $3.30, set the pace from barrier one and won by a neck from Nota Bene Denario, a $21 chance who finished strongly from eighth at the bell.
Shanway was headed by a half-length in the early stages by the $1.90 favourite Lord Rosco, who began with his usual brilliance from the No. 5 barrier but was unable to cross to the front.
A fast lead time of 35.5sec. had Peterson rather worried. “But once we then got through the first quarter in 31sec. and didn’t speed up in the second quarter (31.7sec.) I was pretty confident,” said Peterson.
Shanway then dashed over the final two 400m sections in 29sec. and 28.5sec. and won at a 1.57.7 rate over the 2130m journey.
Peterson said that owner Mick Harvey had sent Shanway to Perth to race because the Bettors Delight gelding was getting up in grades in Sydney.
“Shanway doesn’t want to try, and you can’t get him to go in his trackwork,” Peterson said. “But he performs well in his races. He is no superstar but is a nice handy horse who should be able to win another race or two.”
Shanway is the third foal out of Grace Way, and he now has had 58 starts for 12 wins, 14 placings and stakes of $98,380. He won twice from 17 New Zealand starts, five times from 14 Victorian starts, once from six starts in Queensland and three times from 17 appearances in New South Wales.
Shanway is a full-brother to Forgotten Highway (53 starts for 12 wins, 21 placings and $150,540) and is a half-brother to Three Ways, who earned $243,434 from 21 wins and 15 placings from 71 starts, with a highlight of his career his second placing behind Lazarus in the Victoria Derby in January 2016.
Another half-brother to Shanway is Make Way (56 starts for 14 wins, 14 placings and $150,495) and a full-brother Man Of Action has raced 19 times for two wins, seven placings and $33,080.
Shanway is the third pacer that Harvey has sent to Peterson, the others being Runaway Three and Cant Refuse.
Peterson has driven Runaway Three to six wins in WA, and he has prepared Cant Refuse for eight races for two wins and three placings.
“Runaway Three is now back in work after having a couple of weeks off to get over a few little problems,” Peterson said. “Cant Refuse has recovered from a damaged pastern and has just got the all clear to get back into work. It was just a minor fracture, not even a hairline.”