Day At The Track

Harper aiming for third Sprint Crown

06:53 PM 07 Jan 2021 NZDT
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Lindsay Harper, Harness racing
Lindsay Harper

Harness racing driver Lindsay Harper has the distinction of winning the inaugural Celebrity Sprint (renamed the Village Kid Sprint in 2012) when Shattering Class defeated Allwoods Chief and Nebulizer on December 31, 1998 and now he has high hopes of winning the $50,000 feature for the third time when he drives Bletchley Park in the 1730m event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Bletchley Park, trained in Bunbury by Stephen Reed, has drawn favourably at the No. 2 barrier on the front line and Harper is sure to use the talented five-year-old’s gate speed in a bid to get to an early lead and set the pace.

The Harper family has a splendid record in this Group 2 sprint, with Harper also scoring with Shattering Class on December 31, 2002, and his sons Donald and Kyle each being successful, with Donald driving Hayton Bain (3/1) to victory over Mr Yankee and Sneakyn Down Under in 2008 and Kyle winning with Mysta Magical Mach (9/2) in 2012 and $56 outsider Bettors Fire, who led from barrier seven and beat Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull in 2017.

Bletchley Park warmed up for this week’s assignment in good style when he started from barrier six and raced in tenth position before he started a three-wide move with 870m to travel. He quickly moved into third place 300m later and fought on gamely to finish a well-beaten third behind Galactic Star and Vultan Tin over 2536m when he covered the final 800m in 55.49sec.

He showed his ability over 1730m when he started from barrier five and raced three back on the pegs before finishing solidly to be fourth behind Chicago Bull, Shockwave and Vampiro in the Mount Eden Sprint in October, with the winner rating 1.53.2.

Bletchley Park’s owner Albert Walmsley is hoping that the all-the-way victory by his four-year-old The Code Breaker at Northam on Tuesday night will be a good omen for Friday night’s race. The Code Breaker is a full-brother to Bletchley Park.

Another full-brother is Bling It On, who made a successful trip to Western Australia in late 2016 when he won a heat of the Interdominion championship at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park and then finished fourth behind Smolda in the final at Gloucester Park. Bling It On raced 100 times for 49 wins, 24 placings and stakes of $1,882,957.

Baby Bling, a half-sister to Bletchley Park, The Code Breaker and Bling It On, also made a successful trip to Perth in November-December 2012 when she won the group 1 Mares Classic and finished third behind Lucie Boshier in the group 3 Norms Daughter Classic.

Looming large as Bletchley Park’s most serious rivals are last-start winners Balcatherine, Galactic Star and Vampiro as well as WA Pacing Cup winner Vultan Tin.

Balcatherine, the only mare in the field, is handily drawn at barrier three for trainer Gary Hall Snr and driver Gary Hall Jnr. A winner at ten of her 19 starts, she is in superb form. She worked hard in the breeze for much of the way before winning the Group 3 Christmas Belles Pace at a 1.54.5 rate over 2130m on Thursday December 24.  Two starts before that she gave an outstanding performance to race without cover before scoring an easy victory over Somebeachparty in the Group 1 Mares Classic.

She is sure to prove hard to beat, but she will need to set a record if she is to prove the master of her 11 male rivals. No mare has been successful in the 22-year history of this event, and only three mares have been placed Lombo Rapida (2000), Meggie Dear (2002) and Ima Spicey Lombo (2012).

However, the Halls have a wonderful record, with Hall Snr winning the race five times, scoring with The Falcon Strike (2003), Rakarebel (2011), Hokonui Ben (2013) and Beaudiene Boaz (2015 and 2016) and Hall Jnr winning with all of those pacers except Rakarebel.

For good measure, Hall Snr has also prepared eleven placegetters six seconds and five thirds.

Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond are seeking their second success in the Village Kid Sprint, and they will be represented by Galactic Star (barrier six), Vampiro (nine) and Justasec (No. 3 on the back line).

Dylan Egerton-Green will handle Galactic Star and he is hoping to go one better than he did when he drove the Bond-trained Our Max Phactor into second place behind Our Field Marshal in December 2018.

Galactic Star started from the outside of the back line in the Village Kid Sprint in December 2019 when he was seventh at the bell and charged home, out five wide, to finish third behind Vampiro and Herrick Roosevelt.    

Vampiro, a $12.70 chance, set the pace for Michael Grantham from barrier four and won by a length at a 1.52.9 rate. This week he will be driven by Colin Brown, who won this event with The Accelerator in 1999.

Vampiro maintained his strong form when he raced three back on the pegs and finished powerfully to win from Bletchley Park and Galactic Star in a 2536m Free-For-All three Fridays ago.

Justasec, to be driven by Deni Roberts, has wonderful potential, but he faces a considerable rise in class at his first appearance in a race over a shorter distance than 2130m. Thirteen wins from 24 starts underline his tremendous ability.

Ken Casellas

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