Arma Xpress too fast in Champagne Classic

05:16 AM 06 May 2012 NZST
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Ben Keiley
Ben Keiley - This win gave him his biggest result in the sport

A gamble by owner Jim Currie and harness racing trainer Noel Keiley paid handsome dividends when brilliant filly Arma Xpress proved too fast and too strong for her nine male rivals in the $50,000 Bazzo Real Estate Champagne Classic for two-year-olds in a wet and wintry conditions at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

A dazzling start from barrier four paved the way for her impressive half-length victory over As Tough As Steel and gave her the distinction of becoming only the eighth filly to win in the 43-year history of the classic.

The win by Arma Xpress came one week after her record-breaking triumph in the $100,000 Sales Classic for fillies and she recovered so quickly after that victory that Keiley decided to give her a chance at racing against male rivals for the first time.

“Last Saturday morning she was bouncing around in the paddock and had pulled up in excellent shape,” Keiley said. “So I thought there’s a $50,000 race coming up and we’ll give it a crack.

“As a trainer, I’d normally not start a two-year-old filly against the colts and geldings. But this filly is something special and I thought, well I’ll give her a chance. She is the best filly I’ve had because she has a bit of size about her, is well mannered and is a beautifully gaited horse.”

That is high praise indeed from a trainer who has prepared some outstanding fillies, including Five Hundred More and Dilingers Reign.

Five Hundred More won the Gold Bracelet in July 2004 before finishing third in the Golden Slipper, and as a three-year-old she won the Sales Classic and Dainty’s Daughter Classic. Dilingers Reign won the $100,000 Diamond Classic as a two-year-old in 2005 and the following year she won the Country Derby and Dainty’s Daughter Classic before finishing third behind Mr Yankee in the WA Derby.

Keiley’s biggest success in harness racing was as the trainer of Countess Kala when she set the pace and held on to win the $100,000 Golden Nugget Championship in a four-way photo finish from Make The Rules, Paulas Mate and Kamwood Tony in December 1999.

Keiley is now setting Arma Xpress for the $100,000 Diamond Classic over 1700m on June 8. “I’ll give her a slight break before heading for the Diamond,” Keiley said. “Unfortunately she is not eligible for the Breeders Crown in Victoria. If she was, I would probably take her over there.”

For Keiley’s 23-year-old son Ben, driving Arma Xpress to victory in the Sales Classic and the Champagne Classic gave him his biggest results in the sport.

Arma Xpress, second favourite at 5/2 behind the heavily-supported 5/4 on favourite Getaway Plan, started from barrier four and most pundits expected Getaway Plan (from the No. 2 barrier) or the polemarker As Tough As Steel to set the pace. But Ben Keiley drove Arma Xpress out hard and she mustered tremendous early pace, out four wide, before bursting past As Tough As Steel 300m after the start to take up the running, with Getaway Plan racing roughly and settling down on the pegs in fourth position.

Keiley then was able to slacken the pace and Arma Xpress had the luxury of cruising through the first 400m section of the final mile in 33.2sec. Kim Young sent Meet George Jetson forward, three wide, with 1200m to travel to move into the breeze.

As Tough As Steel had enjoyed a perfect run behind the leader and Jamie Rigoli got the gelding off the pegs approaching the home turn and issued a strong challenge. Keiley wielded the whip vigorously all the way down the home straight and Arma Xpress responded superbly to hold off As Tough As Steel and win by a half-length.

Rocky Pop, who had raced three back on the pegs for much of the way, fought on doggedly to be third. The final 800m was covered in 60sec. and the winner rated 2.2.2 on the very heavy track to take her record to four starts for four wins and stakes of $114,450.

She was bred by Currie and offered at the 2011 Gloucester Standardbred yearling sale when she failed to reach her reserve price of $40,000.

“I was pretty confident tonight,” Noel Keiley said. “I knew how much gate speed she has and I just said to Ben that on a track like this it is best to go forward and see if you can cross (to the lead) and if not, then sit in the chair.”

Keiley praised his son for his skill in preventing the possibility of serious injury to Arma Xpress when she contested a heat of the Sales Classic at an afternoon meeting at Gloucester Park on April 16. The filly in barrier three jumped a shadow and broke into a gallop soon after the started, causing interference to the two runners on her outside and unseating Keiley and Sam Torre.

Keiley held on to the reins and was dragged along the track for a considerable distance. The race was called off and re-run later, when Arma Express dashed to an early lead and won in good style.

“I just hung on for dear life and I didn’t want to let her go,” Keiley said. “I was trying to get back in the cart to run fifth and qualify for the final. I thought that the race was going to continue, but, thankfully, it was called off. And in the re-run she began well, got to the front and got the money.

“Arma Xpress is very flighty and if I had not been able to hang on to the reins she might have taken off and badly injured herself.”

SENSATIONAL GABBY HAS THE WA OAKS AT HER MERCY

Champion filly Sensational Gabby will be a hot favourite for the $150,000 Gannons WA Oaks next Friday night after warming up for the classic with an effortless victory in the 2100m Ballajura Senior Football WA Oaks Prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Favourite at 5/1 on, Sensational Gabby was not extended in winning by 11m from Is She Talking after she began speedily from barrier six on the front line, dashed to the front after 550m and then bowled before sprinting the final 400m on a rain-sodden track in 28.7sec.

This took Sensational Gabby’s record to 15 wins and a second placing from 17 starts for earnings of $228,625 and it appears that only extremely bad luck will prevent Chris Lewis guiding the Greg Schofield-trained filly to victory in the Oaks.

Sensational Gabby ended the unbeaten record of the inexperienced Is She Talking, a New Zealand-bred filly trained by Gary Hall sen. Is She Talking had won easily at her only three starts, all at Gloucester Park in March.

Aristocratic Glow galloped badly and caused severe interference to Say Yes Josephine, dislodging reinsman Ben Keiley. Polemarker Sheeza Vixen jumped straight to the front before Morgan Woodley sent Pure Empathy to the front 450m after the start.

Pure Empathy then gained the run of the race behind Sensational Gabby, with Gary Hall jun. settling Is She Talking in seventh position in the one-wide line. Is She Talking was fourth, one-out and one-back at the bell, and she finished solidly to be second, just 1m ahead of Pure Empathy.

REMEMBER EL EMERGES AS A SUMMER CARNIVAL PROSPECT

Remember El continued his emergence as one of the State’s best pacers when he maintained his superb form with an easy victory in the Ballajura Junior Football Club Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Leading trainer Gary Hall sen. admitted that the five-year-old had exceeded his expectations, saying: “He has surprised me; I didn’t think that he was quite that good.””

Remember El, who arrived at Hall’s Hazelmere stables from Victoria with a losing sequence of ten and unplaced at his previous nine starts, has created a huge impression in WA, with his first four starts producing a most unlucky first-up second and three commanding victories.

He is showing the potential to develop into a leading player in the rich carnival events in Perth next summer.

He was a 10/9 favourite when he started from the back line in Friday night’s 2100m event in which he faced his most serious challenge since arriving in WA, racing against millionaire star Lombo Pocket Watch and quality performers Jumbo Operator and Aussie Reactor.

He passed the test with flying colours. Driven by Gary Hall jun., Remember El settled down in seventh position before going forward mid-race to work hard outside the pacemaker Davy Maguire. He then simply strolled to the lead on the home turn and dashed away to win by two lengths from Jumbo Operator, who impressed in charging home from ninth at the bell.

Davy Maguire held on to finish third, ahead of the fast-finishing Dundee Three and Lombo Pocket Watch. Remember El covered the final 800m in a sparkling 57.4sec. on a rain-soaked track and he rated 1.59.3.

Owned by Victorians Tony Prochilo, Angelo and Albert Cammaroto and Patrick de Krester, Remember El has earned $171,208 from 17 wins and 15 placings from 52 starts.

FLOSSIE ENJOYS No. 1 BARRIER AND ENDS LOSING SEQUENCE OF 19

Honest mare Flossie, making her second appearance after a spell, made every post a winner from the prized No. 1 barrier when she set the pace and held on to win the 2506m Bazzo Residential Sales Pace from the fast-finishing Rokewood at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Though she had managed just one placing at her previous 15 starts and had a losing sequence of 19 since her previous win, at Gloucester Park 14 months ago, punters rallied and supported her from her advantageous barrier. She started at 11/4, with Touch of Tango at 6/4 and Rokewood at 4/1.

Morgan Woodley got Flossie straight to the front and rated her perfectly. After going through the first 400m section of the final mile in a leisurely 31.9sec., Flossie accelerated to cover the next quarters in 29.9sec. and 28.9sec. She ran the final quarter in 29.9sec. and scored by 1m from Rokewood, who was restrained to last from barrier six and was still last at the bell.

Touch of Tango started from the back line and raced in seventh place before Gary Hall jun. sent him forward in the back straight in the bell lap. However, Touch of Tango was forced four wide by Jonty Bromac before getting to the breeze with a lap to travel.

However, the hard run took its toll and Touch of Tango wilted to finish fourth. Courtney Burch, the driver of Jonty Bromac, was suspended by the stewards for 16 days for having forced Touch of Tango to cover more ground than necessary.

The Victorian-bred Flossie, who was produced in excellent condition by Henley Brook trainer Chelsey Harding, has raced 62 times for eight wins, 15 placings and stakes of $58,605.

LITTLE BOY BLUE RATTLES HOME FROMLAST

Smart three-year-old Little Boy Blue justified favouritism at 5/4 on when he surged home from last at the bell to score a narrow victory in the 2100m Bazzo.com Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Polemarker My Mississippi Rose held out an early challenge from Extreme Desire to set the pace and Chris Lewis had no hesitation in letting Little Boy Blue drop back from the No. 5 barrier to the rear.

Major Catastrophe, from the outside of the front line, followed an early three-wide move from Red Salute to move into the breeze 700m after the start. My Mississippi Rose began to tire 700m from home and David Young sent Major Catastrophe to the front at the 650m mark.

However, Little Boy Blue sustained a powerful three-wide burst to get to the front with 450m to travel and he looked set for a comfortable victory on the home turn before he began to wilt in the concluding stages. Major Catastrophe then dug deep to run home with great determination to finish just 1m from the winner, who covered the final 400m in 29.6sec. after a 29sec. third quarter of the final mile.

Livelong And Prosper, who had trailed Mississippi Rose, was shuffled back to seventh position when then pacemaker stopped badly turning into the back straight. Morgan Woodley eventually was able to get Livelong And Prosper into the clear and the gelding finished solidly to be an unlucky third.

Mississipi Rose dropped back to finish 77.3m from the winner and the stewards sent the Tony Svilicich-trained filly back to trials.

Little Boy Blue, owned by Gary Elson and trained at Byford by Peter Tilbrook, has had 14 starts for six wins, four placings and $46,779 in prizemoney.

THERECOMESATIME SUCCEEDS AT FIRST RUN IN A CLAIMER

New Zealand-bred six-year-old Therecomesatime celebrated his first appearance in a claimer with a devastating victory over outsiders Westwind Rebel and Nesian Mystic in the 2100m Bazzo Real Estate Claiming Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Nobody took up the option to claim Therecomesatime for $15,000, but seven claims at $10,000 were lodged for New Zealand-bred four-year-old Eliminator.

Eliminator, trained by Greg and Skye Bond, raced three back on the pegs and finished sixth. The successful claimant, after a ballot, was Jess Horner. The unsuccessful claimants were Rob Gartrell (a part-owner of Eliminator), Chris Butt, Murray Lindau, Dylan Egerton-Green, Emile Hardinge and Max Grynberg.

Therecomesatime, trained and driven by Chris Brew, was a 9/1 chance from the outside of the back line, with polemarker Zenthura a warm favourite at 5/4.

Zenthura set the pace after holding out an early strong challenge from Elite Under Fire, who got to a length lead (three wide) from barrier four, but was unable to cross to the pegs. Constant Addiction got to the breeze after 700m, with Brew biding his time at the rear.

Baketrandthefatman started a three-wide move approaching the bell and this run was followed by Therecomesatime, who came from eighth at the bell to burst to the front with 250m to travel. Therecomesatime raced away to score by three and a half lengths from Westwind Rebel, who charged home from 11th at the bell.

Therecomesatime, who had been placed once from his nine previous starts, covered the final 800m in 58.8sec. and rated 1.59.2. He has earned $97,239 from 11 wins and 15 placings from 62 starts.

MY ELUSIVE DREAM MAKES IT FOUR IN A ROW

Mt Helena trainer Ray Williams and Baldivis reinsman are enjoying a dream run with lightly-raced New Zealand-bred five-year-old My Elusive Dream, who recorded his fourth win in a row when he proved too strong for his rivals in the Bazzo Property Management Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

My Elusive Dream, a 5/1 chance from the 10m mark, made the most of a smart beginning, while the 7/4 favourite Uppy Son broke into a bad gallop soon after the start and the strongly-fancied Old McDonald and Bluff Knoll and Never Waver Lombo galloped at the start of the 2096m stand.

Turvey quickly had My Elusive Dream in sixth position in the one-wide line as frontmarker California Dreams was setting the pace, with Adda Tak, a winner at each of his past two starts, working hard in the breeze.

Turvey started a three-wide move with My Elusive Dream approaching the bell and the Dream Away gelding sustained the effort to dash to the front 250m from home, putting paid to the prospects of Adda Tak, who had taken the lead at the 380m mark.

My Elusive Dream went on to score by 4m from the dogged California Dreams, with Secret Interlude finishing fast into third place.

My Elusive Dream has now earned $79,998 from 14 wins and six placings from 34 starts. He has a marvellous record in WA --- 19 starts for 11 wins and three placings.

CONSISTENT MOTORINGWITHTHEBEST KEEPS UP THE GOOD WORK

New Zealand-bred six-year-old Motoringwiththebest, related to star pacer Precious Dylan, maintained his tremendous form for Baldivis trainer-reinsman Nathan Turvey when he finished powerfully to win the 2506m Western Flames Softball Team Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Motoringwiththebest, favourite at 5/2 from the outside of the back line, settled in tenth position before Turvey started a three-wide move 1350m from home, with the heavily-supported 3/1 second favourite Im Grant Lea setting the pace.

Sir Artsplace, who had raced without cover for 1100m, forged to the front 550m from home before Motoringwiththebest gained the upper hand at the 250m mark and went on to win by a half-length from the fast-finishing Another One For Me. Im Grant Lea faded to finish last, 81.7m from the winner.

Motoringwiththebest dashed over the final 400m in 28.7sec. and rated 2.1.1 in recording his tenth win from 58 starts. He won at five of his 47 runs in New Zealand and has started 11 times in WA for five wins and three placings.

Motoring With Julie, the dam of Motoringwiththebest, is out of Julie Vance, the dam of Knight Vance, Precious Dylan and Christopher Three.

Knight Vance won the $85,000 New Zealand Two-Year-Old Championship in Auckland in March 1997. He went on to win eight times in New Zealand, eight times in WA and 20 times in America before retiring with a record of 195 starts for 36 wins, 48m placings and stakes of $311,451.

Precious Dylan has earned $349,588 from 27 wins and 14 placings from 67 starts. He finished a nose second to gee Whiz Fizz in the 2005 Golden Nugget Championship, won the Four and Five-Year-Old Championship and Christmas Gift in 2006 and the 2010 Pinjarra Cup. Christopher Three raced 86 times for 12 wins and 28 placings for stakes of $110,119.

LEWIS DRIVES TWO WINNERS AT GLOBE DERBY PARK

Champion WA reinsman Chris Lewis made a lightning trip to Adelaide and landed a double at Globe Derby Park on Saturday night.

He was successful with 5/1 chance Veddy Veddy Good in a C1-C2 $3000 event over 1800m and 5/4 favourite Knapdale Girl in the Jack Roberts Trotters Handicap, a stand over 2645m before finishing a head second behind Facelift in the 2645m Silky Jones Trotters Handicap.

Facelift, a 20/1 chance, broke in running before finishing strongly to finish second in a photo to 7/2 chance Heresomes The Cat.

by Ken CASELLAS

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