An extra 400 metres will not hamper classy two-year-old Persistent Threat in his bid to retain his unbeaten record when he contests the $50,000 Slater Gartrell Sports Midland Champagne Classic over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The West Australian-bred gelding, trained at Bunbury by, has won in effortless fashion over 1730m at Gloucester Park at his past two starts after winning easily over 1684m twice at Pinjarra and over 1609m at Bunbury at his only other starts.
None of the ten runners in Friday night's classic has been tested over 2130m and Persistent Threat looks the youngster most capable of adjusting to the longer journey, simply because he has not been fully extended in any of his races and has gone to the line strongly in all his five wins.
A favourable barrier at No. 2 on the front line will ensure that Persistent Threat will be at a short quote, instead of the gift price of 3/1 last Friday night when he overcame the disadvantage of starting from barrier seven (the outside of the front line) in the $100,000 Sales Classic.
Tom Buchanan, who has handled the gelding in all of his five starts, restrained Persistent Threat back to last before he urged him forward, three wide, 1100m from home. Persistent Threat forged to the front at the bell and went on to win, unextended, from the early pacemaker Captain Oats.
The field for the Champagne Classic is considerably stronger than the field which contested the Sales Classic and prominent owner Rob Watson will be represented by two talentedyoungsters, neither of whom has tasted defeat.
Watson's runners are the WA-bred filly Soho New York (trained by) and the New Zealand-bred colt The Odd Lover (trained by ). Soho New York, who will start from the No. 2 barrier on the back line, has been most impressive in winning at her four starts, all at odds-on. Fillies have been successful in two of the past eight Champagne Classics (Sheza Clout in 2006) and Arma Xpress (in 2012).
The Odd Lover, who is unfavourably drawn at barrier six on the front line, made a superb debut when she began speedily from barrier five and raced in the breeze before scoring by more than three lengths over 1780m at Northam on Thursday of last week.
Bickley trainerand reinsman will go into the race full of hope after the consistent gelding Nitro Lad drew the prized No. 1 barrier. They combined to win the Champagne Classic in 2008 with the brilliant but ill-fated James Matthew.
Nitro Lad, a winner at Narrogin five starts ago, has finished second five times from seven career starts. He began from the outside of the back line and raced in sixth position on the pegs before finishing fast along the inside to be fourth behind Persistent Threat last Friday night.
Northam trainer Jesse Moore, who has won the Champagne Classic with Nixon Adios (1975), Wirrpunda (2001) and All Four Firing (2002), will be represented byfilly Tricky Styx, who has won easily at Bunbury and Pinjarra at two of her four starts. Her prospects deteriorated when she drew the outside of the front line.
Oakford trainerand Herne Hill horseman will be looking to win the Champagne Classic for the second time. Olivieri was successful with Talladega in 1999 and Torre drove Arch Rival to victory in 1985. Olivieri will be represented by the speedy Coeur de Whitby, who has won at Northam, Narrogin and Harvey at his past three outings. Coeur de Whitby will start from the No. 5 barrier on the front line with in the sulky.
Torre's runner Thatelbe, a greygelding, will start from the inside of the back line and will be driven by . Thatelbe has won once (at Pinjarra) at his four starts. Lewis will be hoping that history will repeat itself. He drove Mister Jadore from the inside of the back line in last year's Champagne Classic and the gelding trailed the pacemaker Lukey before finishing powerfully to win easily from Hugh Victor. That gave Lewis his seventh win in the event --- after scoring with Pardon Me Boys (1987), Talladega (1999), Wirrpunda (2001), All Four Firing (2002), Slick Operator (2003) and David Hercules (2009).
WOODLEY TO DRIVE COPAGRIN
Outstanding reinsmanhas been engaged to drive smart five-year-old Copagrin in the $21,000 Slater Gartrell Richard Henry Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
West Swan trainer and part-owner John Guagliardo opted for Woodley after the gelding's recent regular reinsmanwas suspended for 16 days for causing interference in a race at Gloucester Park last Friday night.
Woodley has not driven Copagrin in any of his 60 starts which have produced 15 wins, 13 placings and $134,077 in prizemoney. He will be the tenth driver to have handled the versatile pacer in a race.
Copagrin, who will be attempting to complete a hat-trick of wins on Friday night, was driven by Suvaljko on a stay of proceedings at Bunbury last Saturday night when the gelding was most impressive in scoring an easy victory and setting a track record rate of 1.55.8 over 2100m. Copagrin started from barrier four on the back line and thundered home from seventh at the bell to beat Aristocratic Glow by two lengths. The final 1200m was covered in 1min. 26.2sec.
This followed Copagrin's convincing all-the-way victory over Lord Lombo in a 2536m event at Gloucester Park nine nights earlier.
Copagrin will start from barrier three in Friday night's 1730m event, with speedy pacers and noted frontrunners in Paramedic and Real Hammer drawn on his inside.
Real Hammer is one of the fastest beginners in the State andis certain to attempt to burst past the polemarker Paramedic in the early stages and take up the running. This would leave Woodley with the option of rating Copagrin in the breeze or restraining the gelding to take a sit.
Real Hammer has just joined thestable and he made his first appearance for the Oakford trainer in the race won by Copagrin in Bunbury last Saturday night. He started from barrier five and had many admirers. However, the tyre of his nearside sulky wheel deflated soon after the start and retired the gelding from the race.
Famous Alchemist, a brilliant sprinter in the Serpentine stables of Gary Hall sen., looks one of Copagrin's main dangers, even from out wide at No. 6 on the front line. She worked hard in the breeze before winning the Golden Girls Mile at Pinjarra on Monday of last week, beating Maggies Mystery and rating 1.54.4 over the 1684m journey.
The consistent Lord Lombo is nicely drawn on the inside of the back line which is made up of quality performers in Crombie, Pacific Warrior, Mysta Magical Mach and This Time Dylan.
Crombie has not been successful for 26 months, but his past couple of efforts have been most encouraging --- a strong-finishing fourth behind Copagin at Gloucester Park and his fourth behind Might Be Luck in a 2500m stand at Harvey in which he started off the 40m mark and raced without cover for much of the way.
Nine-year-old Mysta Magical Mach, an equine millionaire, will be reappearing after a ten-week absence, but he appears to be facing a stern task from the outside of the back line.
LIBERTYBELLE MIDFREW IS A STAR BET
described Libertybelle Midfrew's potential as "scary" after driving her to a runaway victory at Gloucester Park on Easter Thursday and declared that she was one of the best pacers he had driven in a career spanning more than a quarter of a century.
He will again drive the New Zealand-bred filly for Hazelmere trainerin the Slater Gartrell Money Magnet WA Oaks prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night and from barrier three on the front line she should prove the star bet on the ten-event program.
This will be Libertybelle Midfrew's final race before running in the $150,000 WA Oaks the following Friday night. She is unbeaten at her three starts in Western Australia after arriving from New Zealand earlier in the year. Her average winning margin is a fraction under four lengths.
Suvaljko readily admits that he has not let Libertybelle Midfrew go at any of her three runs in Australia and he describes her as a strong, tough and all class.
Adding quite some interest to Friday night's race will be the first appearance in WA of New Zealand-bred fillies Pal Amino and Dontdoubtme.
Pal Amino, trained at Pinjarra by, will be having her first start since she chalked up her first victory at her fourth start --- over 1950m at Rangiora on February 27. She will start from barrier four on the front line.
Dontdoubtme is afilly trained by who has had seven starts in Victoria and South Australia for five wins, a fifth and a last-start third in the South Australian Oaks at Globe Derby Park on February 8 when she raced wide and then worked hard without cover. She will start from barrier four on the back line on Friday night.
Smart fillies Maddy White (five wins from 23 starts) and Jungle Jewel (a winner at Gloucester Park and Kellerberrin at her past two outings) will start on the inside of Libertybelle Midfrew on Friday night and(Maddy White) and (Jungle Jewel) will be keen to set the pace.
Maddy White is one of three fillies in the race who are prepared at Capel by, the others being Typhoon Tan (six wins from 21 starts) and Im Bella Jay (four wins from 16 starts).
Reed has a good second-string runner in My Samantha Jane, who is nicely drawn on the inside of the back line. My Samantha Jane won for the third time from 14 starts when she gave a strong frontrunning performance to beat Im Bella Jay over 2100m at Bunbury last Saturday night.
Even though she is unfavourably drawn at barrier six on the front line, The Parade appears the toughest rival for Libertybelle Midfrew. After one placing from three starts as a two-year-old, The Parade has raced in wonderful style this season, with six wins, three seconds and a third from 12 starts.
DAVIES AND LITTLE BOY BLUE SET TO SHINE
looks set to maintain her 100 per cent record behind speedy five-year-old Little Boy Blue by driving the New Zealand-bred gelding to victory in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Sports Thornlie Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
She has driven the Bob Mellsop-trained Little Boy Blue twice for stylish victories in fast times and from barrier four this week she is likely to urge Little Boy Blue forward in the early stages in a bid to assume his favourite frontrunning role.
Davies drove Little Boy Blue hard from barrier three to take up the running after 220m in a 2130m event three starts ago. He romped to a four-length victory at a 1.55.8 rate over 2130m. And then last Friday night Davies fired up Little Boy Blue from the No. 4 barrier to take the front after 220m before he sped over the final 800m in 56sec. to win by two and a half lengths at a 1.54 rate over 1730m.
An interesting newcomer on Friday night is Napoleon Dynamite, who will start from barrier five on the front line in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Seel N Print Pace for Oakford trainerand reinsman .
The eight-year-old Napoleon Dynamite will be making his Australian debut after having raced 90 times in New Zealand for ten wins and 24 placings. His last win was by a short half-head over Lord Diego at Alexandra Park in August 2011, rating 1.58.4 over 2200m.
by Ken Casellas