Day At The Track

Cut For An Ace defies age and injuries

06:00 PM 25 Jan 2018 NZDT
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Cut For An Ace, harness racing
Veteran pacer Cut For An Ace
Gloucester Park Photo

Blythewood harness racing trainer Michael Brennan and his 22-year-old nephew, star reinsman Michael Grantham, are brimming with confidence that veteran Aces N Sevens pacer Cut For An Ace will make full use of his brilliant natural speed to outpace his eight rivals in the $50,000 The West Australian Nights of Thunder at Gloucester Park on Saturday night.

The evergreen Victorian-bred ten-year-old has overcome setbacks since he arrived in Western Australia in mid-2015 when a suspensory ligament injury kept him out of action for 18 months and in recent years hoof problems have prevented Grantham from working the gelding on the track.

“It’s simply a matter of keeping him sound and his feet issues under control,” Brennan explained. “I can’t give him any trackwork, and his training is confined to Michael (Grantham) galloping him in the heavy sand.

“He’s a happy horse and loves to be spoilt. All credit must go to my wife Lara, who looks after the horse. He’s her pet project.”

Cut For An Ace, the fastest of the three heat winners last Friday night, was untroubled to set the pace from the No. 1 barrier. He sped over the four quarters of the final mile in 27.8sec., 28.3sec., 27.7sec. and 28.4sec. to record a sizzling mile rate of 1.51.8, which is the second fastest recorded over 1730m at Gloucester Park. The track record for 1730m is 1.51.6, set by champion five-year-old Chicago Bull when he stormed home to win by a head from Soho Tribeca in the Mount Eden Sprint last October.

“He’s flying at the moment,” Brennan said. “You saw how good he was last week. Obviously, after drawing barrier two, the aim is to lead. We will just see what happens at the start. If he doesn’t lead, I think he is still good enough to win from the breeze or from the one-out, one-back position.”

Brennan and Grantham are planning the same tactics that proved highly successful for them 12 months ago when Grantham drove the Brennan-trained four-year-old Nathans Courage to a superb all-the-way victory in the Nights of Thunder. Nathans Courage, second favourite at 2/1, burst straight to the front from barrier four and won by a length and a half from the evens favourite American Boy.

Drawn inside Cut For An Ace on Saturday night in the coveted No. 1 position is speedy beginner and noted frontrunner Fernleigh Rebel. Trainer Clint Hall is expected to make use of Fernleigh Rebel’s excellent gate speed in a bid to set the pace with the seven-year-old, whose most recent victory was eight starts ago when he led from barrier four and beat Don’t Wanadie and Im Lisart over 2130m.

Hall has a good record in the Nights of Thunder, having been successful with Soho Lennon (who led from barrier one in 2015) and Mohegan Sun (who started from the No. 2 barrier and enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before finishing strongly to beat Ti Amo Franco in 2016).

Six-year-olds Talktomeurmattjesty and Argyle Red loom large as the main dangers to Cut For An Ace after they gave outstanding performances in the first qualifying heat last Friday night.

Talktomeurmattjesty, trained in Busselton by Barry Howlett, will start from the No. 6 barrier on the front line, with Argyle Red, trained at Pinjarra by Rob MacDonald, at barrier five.

Talktomeurmattjesty (Chris Lewis) revealed wonderful fighting qualities when he worked hard outside the flying pacemaker Shes Artful before getting to the front 450m from home and holding on to defeat Argyle Red (Morgan Woodley) by a half-head, rating 1.52.6. The opening quarter was run in a blistering 26.8sec., with the following sections in 28.4sec., 28.7sec. and 29sec.

“I didn’t quite expect that we had to go that time to win,” said Lewis. “But I wasn’t terribly worried by being in the breeze.”

Talktomeurmattjesty had three starts in New Zealand, all as a four-year-old, for two wins and a head second. He has impressed greatly in Western Australia where his 18 starts have produced nine wins and six placings.

He is the ninth foal out of Falcon Seelster mare Talk To Me Later and is a half-brother to noted speedy sprinter Talk To Me Courage, who raced in WA between 2006 and 2011 when he finished a close third behind Aikido Whitby in the 2006 Golden Slipper, won the Lord Mayor’s Cup in 2010 and was a close second to Our Malabar in the 1730m Celebrity Sprint in 2009.   

Talk To Me Courage finished fourth behind Davisons Destiny in the 2009 Nights of Thunder and two months earlier he was a neck second to Sneaky Down Under in the 1780m Village Kid Sprint at Northam. Talk To Me Courage won six races in Victoria, 11 in WA and 29 in America before retiring with earnings of $646,669.

Lewis has a high opinion of Talktomeurmattjesty and is hoping that the gelding will give him his second success in the Nights of Thunder after his thrilling victory with the Ross Olivieri-trained 9/1 chance Davisons Destiny, who was seventh at the bell and flew home to snatch victory from the 7/4 favourite and pacemaker Indian Giver.

Cut For An Ace is proving an excellent investment for Sam Godino and James Michell, who claimed the gelding for about $8000 in a race at Melton in September 2013. Since then the gelding has had 68 starts for six wins, 19 placings and stakes of $138,982. There have been hiccups along the way, but Cut For An Ace has never raced better.

Ken Casellas

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