Cornwall rises above adversity
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” declared Mike Cornwall after rising star Sheez Our Hope had scored a devastating victory at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
No, the cheery 67-year-old wasn’t referring to his good fortune in purchasing the mare for a mere $4000 two years ago but was reflecting on enjoying good health after doctors gave him just a five per cent chance of surviving an attack of leukemia 23 years ago.
“The leukemia is all gone; I’m one of the lucky ones, said Cornwall. “I was in and out of hospital for 12 months for chemotherapy etcetera and I got a fungal infection and had part of a lung removed. Originally, I went to hospital with pneumonia, and with the leukemia I was given only a five per cent chance of making it.”
This good news, heart-warming story outshines the interesting history of Sheez Our Hope, a five-year-old mare, who faced the distinct prospect of never racing as she romped wild with dozens of other horses in a large paddock in Burekup for almost two years.
“She was left to her own devices and when I got her she was quite feral and difficult to handle,” said Cornwall. “She had been broken in as a yearling by Steve Burton, and when I got her as a late three-year-old I had to start again, virtually, and it took quite a while to get her going again.
“Sheez Our Hope was advertised for sale on Facebook, and I saw that she was by Alta Christiano out of Easton Swift. I had quite a nice filly by Alta Christiano at the time, and I knew that Easton Swift had been a successful mare on the track.
“So, I wandered down to Burekup and had a look at her. I sort of liked her, put in an offer and was able to buy her for $4000. Interestingly, I was informed that she was a two-year-old, but then I discovered she was a three-year-old.”
The filly gradually responded to Cornwall’s loving care and the former wild animal is now described by her trainer as the best natured horse you would ever find.
So far, Sheez Our Hope has revealed that she has inherited much of the brilliance of Alta Christiano, an ill-fated champion pacer who earned $309,163 from his 13 wins from 18 starts, which included the WA Derby in April 2013. Easton Swift, a winner at one of five New Zealand starts, won at her Australian debut for Aldo Cortopassi at Northam in October 2010 and at her final start, in February 2013. She earned $123,391 from 13 wins and 12 placings from 52 starts.
Sheez Our Hope, who possesses sparkling gate speed and a dazzling turn of foot, is destined for a wonderful career. Her effortless win in the 2130m Simmonds Steel Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night took her record to eight starts for five wins and two placings for stakes of $37,780.
She was driven perfectly by Kyle Harper, who quickly moved her into the commanding one-out, one-back position before urging her forward, three wide, 600m from home. She burst to the front 160m later and won, unextended, from highly-regarded New Zealand-bred mares Nikasa and Sagano.
Cornwall proudly relates how Sheez Our Hope won at her four trials, three at Pinjarra and one at Byford, last year before he drove her to victory on debut, rating 2.0.5 over 2185m at Pinjarra last September.
“I knew that she would just win,” he said. “That was my final drive in a race. I was 66 and it was time to retire. And I also believe that lighter drivers go better.” He chose Harper because he “liked his style” and also because he had driven Iam The Real Thing to three wins at Pinjarra in 2019 and 2020.
Sheez Our Hope’s win on Friday night gave Cornwall his first training success in a metropolitan-class event since the Ben Geersen-owned Hamelin Gold was successful in a 2500m M0 event on August 8, 1997.
Cornwall became ill soon after that and spent many years away from horses. He and his wife Kerry moved into a property at West Pinjarra five years ago, and in those years he has won 12 races as a hobby trainer.
“I’ve ever only had one or two in work at a time and I have prepared only four horses in the past five years, and all four have been winners --- Iam The Real Thing, Downtoafineart, Onlythebestwilldo and Sheez Our Hope.
“I work for my wife, would you believe. She manages about 20 anaesthetists, and we work from home.”
Sheez Our Hope, whose preparation consists mainly of working in the sand, is being set for the $25,000 Harry Capararo Westbred Pace for four and five-year-old mares. She is an exciting prospect who should develop into a leading candidate for the $125,000 Mares Classic at Gloucester Park next summer.
Parmesan bounces back
Ultra-consistent four-year-old Parmesan bounced back to his best form with an excellent all-the-way victory in the group 3 $30,000 Pure Steel Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
His win at $3.60 by more than a length over Plutonium made amends for his shock first-up failure as a $1.34 favourite when he set the pace and wilted to fourth behind Vespa in a 2536m event a fortnight earlier.
Star reinsman Ryan Warwick was pleasantly surprised at the New Zealand-bred pacer’s convincing win, saying: “I thought he was ordinary and was pretty disappointing first-up, even though his work before that run was good. His work since has been exceptional, so maybe we were just two weeks out.
“I probably fought him a bit too much at his previous start, and tonight I let him free roll a bit. He’s a winner and his record is pretty good. He is not purely a frontrunner. He has won plenty of races from behind.”
Parmesan, prepared by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, has done all his racing in Western Australia and boasts an impressive record of 27 starts for 15 wins, four placings and stakes of $77,322. He has won seven races at Pinjarra, five at Gloucester Park, two at Bunbury and one at Northam.
Parmesan, by Betterthancheddar, is the second foal out of the unraced Mach Three mare Tristar Brigade. Warwick took full advantage of the prized No. 1 barrier, and Parmesan, who races with his head held low, was untroubled to jump straight to the front, and last-start winner Alta Intrigue moved to the breeze in the first lap.
Then, Alta Blues, reappearing after a 19-week absence, dashed forward, three wide after 650m, to move to the breeze after a lap and apply some pressure to the leader. However, Parmesan was never seriously tested and won with something in hand.
Last-to-first win to Diego
New Zealand-bred five-year-old Diego illustrated his versatility when he charged home from last in the field of seven at the 220m mark to snatch a thrilling last-stride head victory over Lawrence in the 1730m GPHR Sprint at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Diego, prepared by Gary Hall snr, had set the pace at five of his first eight wins in Western Australia. But from out wide at barrier six and with noted frontrunner Mirragon, the $1.60 favourite, drawn perfectly at barrier one, Dylan Egerton-Green wisely did not bustle Diego in the early stages.
Diego, fourth favourite at $8.60, saved every inch of ground as he remained on the pegs in last place until Egerton-Green switched him off the inside approaching the home turn and the gelding flew home to beat $7 chance Lawrence, who had taken the lead at the 60m mark. Culpeka ($7) fought on for third after racing without cover, with Mirragon wilting to fourth.
Diego, a Bettors Delight gelding and a winner of three races in New Zealand, now has had 37 starts for 11 wins, nine placings and $125,817. He is a full-brother to Mister Bushido (78 starts for 12 wins, 22 placings and $164,175).
Nota Bene Denario just holds on
Nota Bene Denario, the $2 favourite from the No. 1 barrier, survived a spirited challenge for the early lead and set the pace before fighting on grimly to win the 2536m Vale Joe Iemma Pace by a head from the fast-finishing $41 outsider Deeorse at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Speedy beginner Lord Rosco was the smartest to begin (from barrier three), but was unable to cross Nota Bene Denario, who was driven hard by Gary Hall jnr to gain the advantage of leading.
“He was hard work and made me earn the win,” said Hall. “I thought the early pressure would test him; I think he is more of a speed horse than a tough horse. He went flat out for nearly 150 metres (when challenged by Lord Rosco) and then came back to me really good, enabling me to get away with plenty (with the first quarters of the final mile in 31.9sec. and 30.7sec.). e went ouHe He
“If he had overraced, he definitely would’ve been rolled. He’s done a good enough job, even though it was like he was gone on the line. You can’t get that little bit out of him.”
Lord Rosco, second fancy at $2.20, was angled to the pegs by Dylan Egerton-Green after the failed attempt to get to the front, and the six-year-old had an ideal passage behind the pacemaker until he was eased off the pegs with 600m to travel. But he just battled on to finish fifth.
Peterson’s double, 175km apart
Talented young reinsman Corey Peterson is making a name for himself as a trainer, and he notched a double on Friday night, driving Shanway to an all-the-way victory in the 2130m Specialised Equipment Funding Solutions Pace at Gloucester Park before his four-year-old mare Smooth Rye ran on from sixth at the bell to beat War Club by a half-head in a 2100m event at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park, 175km away.
Shanway, a New Zealand-bred six-year-old by Bettors Delight, was a hot favourite at $1.60 from the prized No. 1 barrier and Peterson made every post a winner, holding out the fast-starting Medieval Man and then setting a brisk pace, with a 36.7sec. lead time followed by 400m sections of 30sec., 30.4sec., 28.7sec. and 28.1sec. He went on to win by more than a length from $8.50 chance Thereugo, who trailed him throughout. The winner rated 1.56.2.
Shanway, owned by Mick Harvey, has raced six times in WA for Peterson for two wins and two seconds to improve his record to 60 starts for 13 wins, 15 placings and stakes of $109,881.
Smooth Rye, a mare by Tintin In America, was driven by Aldo Cortopassi and her win as the $2 favourite was her second from two starts for the 20-year-old Peterson. She was driven by Peterson when she ran on from the rear to win by more than five lengths from Chase The Feeling at Kellerberrin the previous Sunday.
Tokyo Joe excels in stands
Lightly-raced New Zealand-bred gelding Tokyo Joe maintained his excellent form in standing-start events when he began safely from the 10m mark and enjoyed a perfect passage, one-out and one-back, before finishing strongly to win convincingly, by more than a length, from On Fast Forward in the 2096m Happy Birthday Ryan Pontillo Trot at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Part-owned, trained and driven by Robbie Williams, Tokyo Joe ($5.10) boasts a fine record of nine wins, six seconds and two thirds from just 28 starts. His four wins from 13 New Zealand starts were in stands and in WA he has won three standing-start and two mobile events.
After a false start and a lengthy delay, Chris Voak sent the $3.40 favourite My Mdina to the front and the mare travelled easily before wilting to finish a disappointing fifth.
On Fast Forward ($23) maintained his sound form when he raced in the breeze throughout and fought on doggedly to be third.
Star mare Princess Mila, a $5.50 chance at her first appearance since winning the $50,000 Trotters Cup on New Year’s Eve, began speedily from the 40m back mark, but she experienced no luck at all in running before locking wheels with Lightning Calder on the home turn.
Perfect Major does it tough
Former Victorian pacer Perfect Major revealed wonderful strength and fighting qualities to score a thrilling victory in a three-way photo finish to the 1730m $25,000 Members Sprint at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Chris Voak’s plans to send Perfect Major forward at the start from the No. 5 barrier and apply pressure to the logical pacemaker and $1.50 favourite Jack Farthing worked out perfectly.
Perfect Major unsuccessfully challenged Jack Farthing for the early lead and then sustained the pressure from the breeze. Jack Farthing reeled off the first three quarters in 28.7sec., 28.5sec. and 28.1sec. before he finally cracked as Voak sent Perfect Major to the front 100m from the post.
Perfect Major, the second fancy at $4, then had to fight on grimly to stave off powerful finishing bursts from Balcatherine ($6.50) and Stroke Of Luck ($18). He won by a nose from Balcatherine, with Stroke Of Luck a nose away in third place. Jack Farthing finished sixth.
“It’s hard to keep the pressure on the leader and still keep something for the last bit,” said Voak. “Perfect Major rated 1.53.5 and went very well. It was an exceptional time because the track wasn’t very quick. He is probably capable of going 1.52.5 on the pegs, and on a good night he could go 1.51.5.
“Perfect Major will have another eight or ten starts and then go for a break before being prepared for the summer carnival. He will be much better next summer because he then would have had a couple of campaigns under his belt.”
It was a most pleasing result for trainer Ross Olivieri, with Perfec t Major winning and Stroke Of Luck coming from sixth at the bell to finish third. Perfect Major now has won at seven of his 12 WA starts and has a career record of 39 starts for 16 wins, 11 placings and stakes of $199,609.
Heavens Showgirl is flying
Victorian-bred mare Heavens Showgirl is proving a good purchase for Ravenswood trainer Nathan Turvey, Ben Irvine, Glenn Jordan, Maddy Coles, Peter Ensell and Ken Lally.
Turvey, looking for a mare who could develop into a good earner in Western Australia, took a liking to Heavens Showgirl and was impressed with her record in Victoria. He was pleased to be able to purchase her just over three months ago for $20,000, and the five-year-old has shown sparkling speed to win at five of her first seven starts for her new owners, earning $53,839 to take her record to 33 starts for 11 wins and 11 placings for stakes of $93,033.
“I picked her because I thought she had an okay record and that there was an opportunity for a mare to succeed in Western Australia,” said Turvey.
Heavens Showgirl, favourite at $2.20, began brilliantly from the No. 5 barrier in the 2130m Catalano Truck And Equipment Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night to burst straight to the front. Emily Suvaljko then enjoyed an armchair drive, with Heavens Showgirl bowling along in the lead and winning by three and a half lengths from Henwood Bay, who trailed her throughout.
Heavens Showgirl rated 1.55.2 after sprinting home over the final 800m in 56.3sec.
Turvey well remembers Heavens Showgirl’s WA debut when she started from the No. 1 barrier in a race at 2130m race at Gloucester Park on March 16.
“From barrier one she felt like she had no idea what to do, but then after about 20 metres she gathered speed,” he said. Heavens Showgirl then was untroubled to set the pace and win by four lengths at a 1.55.5 rate.
“She then drew No. 1 at her next two starts (at Bunbury and Gloucester Park) and just felt electric (at the start).” She won easily in both those events.
Turvey now plans to “just keep her going around” before Heavens Showgirl hopefully will be able to be set for the rich feature events for mares in the summer months.
A bargain is missed
Prospective buyers have missed a bargain by overlooking smart New Zealand-bred five-year-old Smart Fortune in recent weeks. There have been no takers for the Art Major gelding who has been advertised on the internet for $15,000.
Smart Fortune, owned by Busselton trainer Barry Howlett, his wife Lynley and their son Jimmy, was an $8 chance when Chris Voak drove him to victory in the 2536m Etch Coatings Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The first prizemoney of $10,277 boosted Smart Fortune’s earnings to $87,388 --- from nine wins and 22 placings from 55 starts.
The gelding was purchased by the Howlett family as a yearling and he won on debut for trainer-reinsman Brent Mangos when, as an $19.20 chance, he led and defeated Bettor Getta Lover at a 2.1.1 rate over 1700m in a heat of the Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes for two-year-olds at Alexandra Park on December 15, 2017.
He then finished third behind Jesse Duke and Star of Montana in the $92,000 group 1 Young Guns final two starts later before travelling to Perth.
Smart Fortune raced truly on the clockwise track at Alexandra Park, but found problems with a habit of knee knocking on the anti-clockwise West Australian tracks. He has overcome this habit to an extent by racing with spreaders and a lugging pole as well as a Murphy blind.
However, he appeared to be quite lazy in Friday night’s event in which Voak had to constantly urge him to concentrate. It was Voak who gained a decisive advantage by getting Smart Fortune away brilliantly from the outside in the field of seven. Smart Fortune easily crossed Bettys Lass and the $1.36 favourite Euphoric Moment, who failed to muster speed from the No. 1 barrier.
In the middle stages and at the bell Voak had to drive Smart Fortune hard in a bid to keep his mind on the job. He battled on doggedly in final 800m of 57sec. to win by a half length from Euphoric Moment.
Smart Fortune has been a handy performer for the Howletts in WA where his 52 starts have produced eight wins and 21 placings. He is the seventh foal out of Affairs Of State, who raced only 12 times in New Zealand for one win and eight placings. Her best effort was finishing second to Western Dream in the group 1 Nevele R fillies series final at Addington in May 2006.
Smart Fortune is a half-brother to five winners, including Chachingcaching (74 starts for 16 wins, 16 placings and $193,663). Smart Fortune’s maternal granddam Under Cover Lover amassed $864,923 from 21 wins and 22 placings from 70 starts. She won the New South Wales Oaks at Harold Park in March 1998, and four months later she was successful in the $150,000 El Dorado final at Moonee Valley.