Hopeland horseman Kevin Charles is bubbling with harness racing confidence about the prospects of Say It Now in the $30,000 RDA Country Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night March 9).
He and his son Kody bred the colt and race him in partnership, and after three placings from six starts as a two-year-old Say It Now has blossomed as a three-year-old, with his nine starts this season producing four wins, two seconds, a third and two fifth placings.
The owners, who will be represented in a Country Derby for the first time, are more than happy that they decided to give Say It Now to be prepared by Waroona horseman Bob Mellsop, who is optimistic about his chances of winning the Country Derby for the second year in succession.
Mellsop trained and drove 6/1 chance Touch of Tango to an impressive victory in the classic 12 months ago when thegelding sustained a powerful burst from tenth in the middle stages to win by a length from the pacemaker Ledger.
Kevin Charles described Say It Now's past two runs as outstanding. The colt last appeared when he worked hard outside the pacemaker Major Catastrophe and finished a splendid half-length second to the brilliant Im Victorious in the 2100m Battle of Bunbury at Donaldson Park last Saturday week when the final 800m was covered in 56.1sec.
At his previous start, Say It Now gave a bold frontrunning display and sprinted the final 400m in 28.5sec. to win the 2670m South-West Derby by six and a half lengths from Maggies Mystery.
"His latest run was huge," Charles said. "He sat on the outside of Major Catastrophe and beat him home easily. It took a very good horse in Im Victorious to beat Say It Now.
"He led in the South-West Derby and when Bob let him go, he just ran away from his rivals. He will start from barrier five on Friday night. He'll go forward and, hopefully, he will get to the front. Major Catastrophe has drawn No. 3 and maybe we will have to sit on the outside of him again. He looms as the hardest to beat."
Say It Now was broken in at Northam by Glenn Elliott and the colt then was given one start by trainer Craig Goldfinch (for a well-beaten fifth behind Major Catastrophe at Bunbury in February of last year) before going for a spell.
"We then gave him to Bob to train because young pacers are not suited on my track," Charles said. "Mine's a heavy track and it is certainly not ideal for young horses to work in the heavy sand. Bob is a good trainer, particularly of two and three-year-olds."
Major Catastrophe, the State's dominant two-year-old colt last season with five wins, two seconds and a fifth from eight starts, should be close to his peak this week after three runs in his current campaign for a second, third and a fourth.
His owner-trainer David Young is hopeful of continuing a strong family tradition in the Country Derby by driving Major Catastrophe to victory this week. His father Ron drove Packed Safely when he won the race in 2009 and his brothers Kim and Shane have been prominent, with Kim winning with Alfa Dyna (1992), Norwest Boy (1993), Lombo Ilyushin (1997) and Social Aspect (1999) and Shane scoring with Alfa Freeway (1985) and Roadless Travelled (2002).
Roguenrich will have many admirers after his powerful display in winning the North-West Derby at Northam last Tuesday week. Thegelding, trained at Morangup by Graham Gilbert, is ideally drawn at the No. 1 barrier and Bruce Stanley is certain to attempt an all-the-way victory.
Roguenrich was a 28/1 outsider when Stanley made full use of the gelding's early speed from the inside barrier to set the pace and defy spirited challenges in the first and second laps before dashing away to win easily from Delusional and Firth of Forth.
Firth of Forth, nicely drawn on the inside of the back line behind Roguenrich, will again be handled by Aiden de Campo for Northam trainer Jesse Moore, who trained Norwest Boy for his win in 1993.
De Campo's late grandfather Ray de Campo trained and drove Hillview Craig to victory in the 1980 Country Derby and he also trained Bunbury Boy, Smooth Business and Kiwis Cloud for their wins in 1990, 1991 and 1998 when they were driven by Aiden's father Andrew.
Andrew de Campo also drove three more Country Derby winners --- Norm's Daughter (1994), Boston Strangler (2001) and Cobalt Jake (2004).
Blue McCool, trained by de Campo, will be driven by Matt White from the outside of the front line in this year's event.
Kim Prentice has been engaged by Bunbury trainer Frank Bonnett to handle last-start all-the-way Bunbury winner Cyclone Mitch. Prentice has won the Country Derby with Pataz (2000), Megagold Lombo (2003) and Dilingers Reign (2006). His son Justin, who has won the race with Trunkey Daydream (2008) and Parsons Dragon (2010), will drive Hooza Clever Bunts for Bunbury trainer John Graham, who has won the event with Ferrari Trunkey in 1987 and Trunkey Daydream (2008).
SVILICICH CALLS ON REED TO DRIVE HAS THE ANSWERS
Veteran Byford trainer Tony Svilicich has engaged Mark Reed to drive evergreen speedster Has The Answers in the $20,500 V75 Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night when his clash with stablemate Mysta Magical Mach should be the highlight of the ten-event program.
"It will be an absolute pleasure to steer him around," said Reed, who has not driven for Svilicich for the past five years.
Reed, who has driven Of Auld Aberdeen three times and Demoralizer twice for Svilicich without success, will replace Morgan Woodley, who rated Has The Answers perfectly for his effortless victory in the 2506m V75 interdominion championship consolation last Friday night.
Woodley will handle Mysta Magical Mach, the stout-hearted seven-year-old he drove into second place behind Im Themightyquinn in the final of the V75 interdominion championship last Friday night.
Reed, who has won many races with talented speedsters, Another Party, Tricky Vic, Buck The Odds and Lookslikelightning, should suit the free-running Has The Answers, whose win last week the 70th in his 205-start career.
"Tony has got Has The Answers firing again, that's for sure," said Reed. "I'd say he'll be coming out with the roller skates on again, and the way he's racing and providing he finds the front, I'd say he'd be hard to beat again."
Reed is one of 21 drivers to have handled Has The Answers during his magnificent career. He drove the gelding only once (when trained by his breeder Les Coulson) in a three-year-old event at Gloucester Park in June 2006 when he finished eighth behind Sports Adda.
Woodley was thrilled with Mysta Magical Mach's great second to Im Themightyquinn last week, but he said that the gelding was far from a lay-down certainty this week.
"Has The Answers will start from the outside of the front line and Mysta Magical Mach will have to come from the outside of the back tow, which is the hardest draw here at Gloucester Park," he said.
"I take each race on its merits and this is totally a different kettle of fish. And the 2100m is getting like mile racing because horses can consistently run fast times up front, especially horses like Has The Answers, the way he went last Friday night and in a trial at Byford the previous Sunday.
"He will be very hard to catch. He can run his last mile in 1.56 or around that mark and if you have to make runs from the back and come three wide it does make it difficult. I won't have any set-in-stone plans. I'll wait and see how hard they are going, who does what and how it all pans out.
"Mysta Magical Mach should run a great race, but the way Has The Answers went last week, albeit from the No. 1 barrier, indicated to me that he's somewhere near his best and as we all know he's a pretty hard horse to catch."
Has The Answers is sure to be flying from the No. 7 barrier in a bid to burst to an early lead. There is plenty of speed on his inside and Please Release Me (No. 1) and Packed Safely (No. 3) are capable of holding him at bay in the early stages.
IS SHE TALKING READY FOR STRONG DEBUT
New Zealand-bred filly Is She Talking is poised to make a successful debut when she starts from the prized No. 1 barrier in the Cowden Limited Pace for three-year-old fillies at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The only runner in the 1700m event who has yet to start in a race, Is She Talking impressed with a smart victory in a 2150m trial at Byford last Sunday morning in which she rated 2.1.3 after sprinting the final 400m in 29sec.
"She started from barrier five and ended up lobbing one-one," Hall said. "I pulled her out about the 600m and she worked home pretty strongly." She beat the pacemaker Emmallira by a length in the eight-horse trial.
"She's not real speedy, but she's pretty tough and has got a bit of heart," Hall added. "She gives me the impression that she can muster good early pace and that should enable her to hold up from barrier one. And she would probably take a bit of beating after that."
Looming as a major danger to Is She Talking is Im Hey Jude, anfilly trained at Boyanup by Justin Prentice. She will be making her Australian debut after three placings from five starts in New Zealand last September and October.
Im Hey Jude is nicely drawn at barrier two and she warmed up for this event with a sound trial over 2100m at Bunbury last Sunday week when she led early and then sat behind the pacemaker Ideas Man before finishing second to that four-year-old horse.
The Bill Horn-trained Talk About Mach, the easy all-the-way winner from barrier one of the $35,000 Dainty's Daughter Classic last Friday week, faces a tougher task from the outside of the front line. However, she must be considered, particularly as she is the winner of three races and has a decided edge in experience over Is She Talking and Im Hey Jude.
HALL REPLACES HOLIDAYING LEWIS ON FROM DAY ONE
Champion reinsman Chris Lewis is on holidays in Bali and Gary Hall jun., the leading driver in the city this season, should make the most of the chance drive on the Peter Tilbrook-trained From Day One in the Clipsal Pace over 2503m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Lewis has set the pace with From Day One and the six-year-old has won convincingly at Pinjarra at his past two outings, in stands over 2609m and 2100m.
"If he leads he will be hard to beat," said Tilbrook, who landed a treble last Friday night. From Day One is generally a safe beginner and Hall will be anxious to make the most of the gelding's favourable front-line barrier of No. 2.
One of From Day One's most serious rivals is likely to be Im Percy The Punter, an M4-class pacer who is favourably handicapped off the 20m mark. Sir Mick Sloy, who has led and won mobile events at his past two starts, will begin from 10m and Shannon Suvaljko will be keen to get the old gelding into a forward position soon after the start.
STEWARDS SUSPEND WOODLEY FOR 12 DAYS
Brilliant young reinsman Morgan Woodley has applied for and received a stay of proceedings to enable him to drive at Gloucester Park on Friday night after the stewards suspended him for 12 days for causing interference in the Bazzo Real Estate Pace on Tuesday night.
Woodley pleaded guilty to a charge of angling Island Reef towards the pegs and trying to get in behind the leader Octavian soon after the start of the 2100m mobile event. Kamwood Tom (Tony Ciuppa), who started from the inside of the back line, was tightened when Island Reef contacted his front legs.
Island Reef finished third behind Octavian and Kamwood Tom was sixth. A protest by Ciuppa against Island Reef was dismissed, with the stewards ruling that the incident occurred too far from the finish to have made any significant difference to the finishing order.
In determining the penalty, the stewards took into account Woodley's excellent driving record. His previous suspension for causing interference in a race was more than 1000 drives ago. He will fulfill his driving engagements on Friday night before starting his suspension.
The stewards suspended Brian Kersley for 29 days after finding him guilty of causing interference with Delrock to Drews Angel (Sam Torre) soon after the start of the TABForm Westbred Pace.
Polemarker Delrock ran up the track, allowing a run for Drews Angel before Kersley angled Delrock back down towards the inside, causing Drews Angel to contact the pegs.
HALL PURCHASES IM THEMIGHTYQUINN'S YEARLING BROTHER
Premier trainer Gary Hall sen. has outlaid $65,000 to buy ayearling colt at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch.
The colt is out ofmare Love Sign and is a full-brother to interdominion pacing championship winner Im Themightyquinn. The colt who is named Themightynadal will be raced by the connections of Im Themightyquinn, Gary Ralston, Beth Richardson, Glen Moore, Karen Hall, Mark Congerton, Henry McManus and Joe Barber.
Themightynadal is the seventh foal out of Love Sign. Three of her foals have raced and Im Themightyquinn is the only one of her progeny to win a race.
by Ken CASELLAS