'Navigator's' chance to get to the big dance

08:07 PM 21 Feb 2012 NZDT
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Andrew de Campo and connections
Andrew de Campo and connections

Capel harness racing trainer Andrew de Campo is thrilled at Lombo Navigator's superb performance on Monday night and has high hopes the five-year-old will reproduce his best form when he contests the ninth heat of the V75 interdominion pacing championship at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“I’d love to have a runner in the final, that’s what everyone strives for,” de Campo said. “I reckon if he runs second or third he will scrape into the final.”

Lombo Navigator has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier on Friday night and appears to have excellent prospects of being placed behind superstar Smoken Up, who will be an odds-on favourite from barrier four.

De Campo has not conceded to Smoken Up, but said that he had to be realistic and that all runners in the heat faced a huge task against the evergreen nine-year-old who will take his earnings past the $3 million mark if he wins for the 60th time from 109 starts.

Lombo Navigator was most impressive in a 2100m heat on Monday night when he started from barrier five and raced in the one-out, one-back position before starting a three-wide run at the 500m mark and sprinting brilliantly in the home straight to be a head second to Raglan when the final 800m was covered in 56.5sec. and the last 400m in 27.9sec.

His effort was in marked contrast to his fading sixth in a 1700m behind Im Themightyquinn three nights earlier when he worked hard in the breeze.

Lombo Navigator has earned 14 points and shares equal tenth place on the points table. The top nine points scorers will qualify to run in the $1 million final on Friday week.

Eight of the top nine points scorers appear destined to qualify for the big race and the ninth spot is more than likely to come down to a battle between Lombo Navigator and Mysta Magical Mach.

This could result in a cutthroat duel between Lombo Navigator and Mysta Magical Mach, who will clash in the ninth heat on Friday night. Mysta Magical Mach, who shares ninth place on 15 points with Dasher VC, will start from the No. 3 barrier, and the probable scenario is that John Justice will send Smoken Up to the lead in the early stages, with Lombo Navigator on the pegs behind him and Mysta Magical Mach in the breeze.

Lombo Navigator has 14 points and if he finishes second and Mysta Magical Mach third, he will have 24 points and Mysta Magical Mach 23.

Lombo Navigator appears to be the only WA-bred pacer with prospects of reaching the final and de Campo would dearly love the gelding to start in the big race and have the chance of becoming only the third WA-bred horse to win an interdominion championship. The only WA-bred winners in the previous 70 championships have been Binshaw (Perth 1967) and San Simeon (Hobart, 1981).

The 45-year-old de Campo also is striving to have his first finalist. He campaigned with Ohoka Ace, who failed to qualify for the final in New Zealand in 2005 and Hobart the following year.

He also had high hopes in the 2002 championship at Sydney’s Harold Park with Paulas Mate, fresh from splendid thirds behind The Falcon Strike in the 2002 Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup.

But the day before Paulas Mate was due to leave Perth by air for Sydney he fractured a leg when galloping on the beach.

“I was very disappointed with Lombo Navigator’s performance last Friday night,” de Campo said. “But I was rapt with his great effort on Monday night. He showed what he can do.

“I couldn’t put a finger on why he faded on Friday night. But there was no use in pushing the panic button. Maybe he got lost when the speed went on dramatically in the last lap after the slow early pace. I kept him fresh over the weekend by wading him in the ocean.”

Matt White, de Campo’s New Zealand-born stable foreman, will again be in the sulky behind Lombo Navigator, who should jump straight to the lead from the inside barrier.

“I’d love him to lead, but we expect Smoken Up to be charging forward and Matt will have little option but to hand up the lead,” de Campo said. “I reckon Smoken Up will go pretty hard and Lombo Navigator should have a perfect run behind him.

“Then we hope Lombo Navigator will be able to get clear and sprint home. If Mysta Magical Mach can keep him a pocket, it’s good luck to him.”

Mysta Magical Mach raced in the breeze outside the pacemaker David Hercules in the eighth heat on Monday night before taking a narrow lead 120m from home before finishing a splendid second to Im Themightyquinn.

John Justice has handled Smoken Up perfectly for decisive wins in the 1700m and 2100m heats and the gelding is a redoubtable stayer who will have no difficulty in handling the 2506m journey on Friday night.

DASHER VC GETS AN IDEAL CHANCE TO MAKE AMENDS

Versatile five-year-old Dasher VC gets a perfect opportunity to make amends for his unlucky fifth behind Im Themightyquinn on Monday night when he starts from barrier three in the eleventh heat of the V75 interdominion championship over 2506m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

This event looks certain to develop into a duel between youth and vast experience. Dasher VC is a comparative novice, with 15 wins from only 29 starts, while his major rival is nine-year-old Mr Feelgood, a hardened campaigner and a veteran of 111 starts, whose 18 wins in America and 20 in Australia have netted $3.3 million in prizemoney.

Mr Feelgood will start from the No. 4 barrier, immediately outside Dasher VC. Chris Lewis is likely to adopt similar tactics to those he employed in the 2506m WA Pacing Cup in mid-January when Dasher VC bowled along in front before finishing a gallant second to Im Themightyquinn.

Mr Feelgood is also a smart frontrunner and John McCarthy is likely to make a bid for the lead with the oldtimer who has sat in the breeze in the first two rounds of heats for a very close fourth behind Crombie over 1700m and an excellent second to Auckland Reactor over 2100m.

Dasher VC impressed on the first night of heats when he started out wide at barrier eight and sprinted home powerfully from the rear to be a half-length second to Smoken Up.

Then he was unlucky over 2100m on Monday night when he against started from barrier eight, settled in last position and was making a spirited forward thrust, three wide, in the final circuit before being pushed four wide at the 500m mark.

This caused him to pace roughly and to lose about a length before Lewis wound him up again and brought him home with a strong burst to be fifth behind Im Themightyquinn.

Russley Rascal will start from barrier one and should lead early before Colin Brown makes a decision whether to attempt to maintain the lead or to take a sit behind either Dasher VC or Mr Feelgood. Russley Rascal started from the No. 1 barrier on Monday night when Brown opted to hand up the lead to Smoken Up 250m after the start.

McCarthy would dearly love to win with Mr Feelgood, particularly after he had the disappointment of having to scratch Washakie, a finalist in the past three interdominion championships, on Tuesday.

Washakie, a gallant second to Auckland Reactor on the opening night of the carnival, raced without cover before fading badly to finish last behind Raglan on Monday night. He was found to be suffering from a virus after the race.

HALL GETS HIS WISH (A WIDE BARRIER) WITH IM THEMIGHTYQUINN

Star reinsman Gary Hall jun. is not concerned at all with champion pacer Im Themightyquinn’s wide barrier at No. 7 in the 12th heat of the V75 interdominion pacing championship at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

He firmly believes that this will not prevent the seven-year-old from continuing on his merry winning ways.

“I’ve always said he’s a better horse when he draws badly,” he explained. “I think if you go through all his group 1 wins, the majority of them have been when he’s drawn poorly.

“I was begging for barrier nine in the WA Pacing Cup early in 2011 when nine horses started across the front line. I was under suspension and Kim Prentice drove the horse. Im Themightyquinn drew No. 9 and Dad went berserk and said it was my fault for wishing for it.

“I was pretty happy because that’s the draw I wanted for him --- and he proved to be too good, coming from near last to win. You can’t get into traffic problems with him when he draws out wide. Over the longer distance (2506m) of this week’s heat and the final I’d rather be coming from last than being bottled up and being unlucky over the line.”

Im Themightyquinn drew barrier four in his first two heats, in which he enjoyed a perfect trail, one-out and one-back, before sprinting home brilliantly to score effortless victories. But Hall had many anxious moments in the 2100m heat on Monday night when Im Themightyquinn was badly hemmed in before he was able to push his way out with 500m to travel.

Im Themightyquinn again looks a certainty on Friday night and should win from Raglan and Can Return Fire.

Colin Brown, who will again handle Can Return Fire, has driven the seven-year-old with a sit in the first two rounds of heats when the gelding has impressed with fast-finishing bursts to be second to Crombie and third behind Auckland Reactor and Mr Feelgood.

However, there is a strong possibility that Brown will change his tactics and set Can Return Fire the task of leading this week. Can Return Fire’s most recent success was when he led over 2100m at Gloucester Park early last November. Eight of his 17 WA wins have been when he has set the pace.

Raglan started from barrier two and was beaten out by polemarker Lombo Pocket Watch in a 2100m heat on Monday night. Eventually Anthony Butt got Raglan to the front after 750m and the New Zealand-bred gelding relished his pacemaking role and held on to win by a head from Lombo Navigator.

Raglan will start from barrier five on Friday night and Butt will not make a firm decision about his tactics until the race is under way.

CROMBIE READY FOR AUCKLAND REACTOR CHALLENGE

Victorian-bred pacer Crombie is a noted sit-sprinter, but Chris Lewis could decide on a change of tactics when he drives the five-year-old in the tenth heat of the V75 interdominion pacing championship at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Crombie has drawn ideally at barrier two, with his chief rival Auckland Reactor starting out wide at barrier seven.

Crombie has fared poorly in barrier draws for much of his 46-start career and only three of his 18 wins have come when he has led from an inside barrier.

Crombie, trained at Byford for Peter Tilbrook, maintained his excellent form when he started from the No. 5 barrier, was restrained to the rear and was eighth at the bell before starting a three-wide move 650m from home and sprinting brilliantly to almost draw level with the pacemaker Smoken Up on the home turn.

Smoken Up resisted the challenge and won by a half-length from Crombie, who surged home from the rear with a sizzling sprint to win a 1700m heat from Can Return Fire and Rocket Reign on the opening night of the carnival.

Anthony Butt will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of wins with Auckland Reactor, who will have to overcome his wide draw. Auckland Reactor has started from barrier three in each of his first two heats and has impressed with his rhythmic pacing and smart victories, over Washakie and then over Mr Feelgood.

Auckland Reactor enjoyed a perfect passage, one-out and one-back, in his 1700m heat and then was untroubled to set the pace in his heat over 2100m. However, he is such an outstanding pacer that it would be unwise to disregard his winning prospects from the No. 7 barrier.

Butt is full of praise for Auckland Reactor, declaring: “He’s a real powerhouse and the final is by no means a two-horse race.”

INSIDE BARRIER WILL SUIT PLEASE RELEASE ME

New Zealand-bred six-year-old Please Release Me has started from barrier one three times at Gloucester Park and each time he has set the pace and won.

Please Release Me will start from the No. 1 barrier again when he contests the $50,000 Binshaw Championship final on Friday night and reinsman Chris Brew will be aiming to maintain the gelding’s perfect record from the inside draw.

Brew’s prayers were answered when Please Release Me drew the inside barrier. After scoring a smart all-the-way victory from barrier one in a heat of the championship last Friday night, Brew said: He’ll be in it up to his ears. Fingers crossed for a decent draw.”

Please Release Me rated 1.58.6, a slower time than the other heat winners, Dundee Three (1.57.4) and Seel N Print (1.57.2). But his prized barrier could tilt the scales his way.

Dundee Three led in his heat and won by almost three lengths in a convincing return to top form. But he will start from the inside of the back line on Friday night when Colin Brown almost certainly will trail the pacemaking Please Release Me and hope for an opportunity in the last lap to get clear and issue a strong challenge.

Seel N Print also was an all-the-way heat winner. He runs his best races in front and his prospects diminished when he drew the outside of the back line.

SENSATIONAL GABBY LOOKS TOO GOOD IN CLASSIC

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis looks certain to win the Veolia Environmental Services Dainty’s Daughter Classic for the third time when he drives the all-conquering Sensational Gabby in the $35,000 event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Sensational Gabby, who has won at 13 of her 15 starts for stakes of $213,355, has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the back line in the 2100m race. Lewis is sure to restrain the filly in the early stages to get her into the clear to avoid the possibility of being hemmed in on the pegs.

Lewis has won the event with Five Hundred More for trainer Noel Keiley in 2005 and for trainer Mike Reed with Sheer Royalty in 2009.

Sensational Gabby has not been extended at her past four starts, winning by considerable margins in fast time. She should smash the race record rate of 1.59.3 set by Artemis Belle 12 months ago when she went into the race with a record of 12 wins from 15 starts.

Sensational Gabby is trained by Greg Schofield, who warmed up for Friday night’s race by driving a 16/1 winner in a minor event at Harvey on Tuesday night.

Schofield, who drives only occasionally, handled debutant Pardon Myspeed, a three-year Parsons Den gelding he brought home with a well-timed burst from seventh at the bell to beat Hoylakes Firstlady, driven by Nathan Turvey.

Schofield trains both Pardon Myspeed and Hoylakes Firstlady.

The main interest in Friday night’s race will centre round which fillies will be capable of being placed behind Sensational Gabby. Soho Cannes, trained at Northam by Glenn Elliott and a last-start Bunbury winner, has strong place prospects, even from the outside of the front line.

Ace of Cards, trained by Mike Reed, set the pace from barrier one when second to Sensational Gabby at Gloucester Park last Friday week, also has excellent place prospects. She will start from the No. 2 barrier off the back line.

by Ken CASELLAS

Lombo Navigator going down to Raglan in the second round of heats on Monday February 20, 2012:

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