When former champion juvenile Sensational Gabby managed just one win and one third placing from 11 starts between December 2012 and January this year her harness racing future was in extreme doubt.
She was wrecking her winning prospects by overracing fiercely and hanging and her connections were seriously considering retirement plans.
But astute Oakford trainerdid not give up the battle and after months of experimenting he has cured her bad habits of pulling hard and hanging in her races and now she has regained all the brilliance which enabled her to win at 23 of her first 27 starts.
She paced generously and faultlessly when she revealed blistering speed to outclass her rivals in the Ray Duffy Memorial at Gloucester Park on Friday night, recording a smart 1.54.8 rate over the 2130m after speeding over the final mile in 1min.53.9sec.
Sensational Gabby now has several feature events for mares over the next two months at her mercy. These include the $20,000 Golden Girls Mile at Pinjarra on April 21, the $35,000 Race For Roses at Gloucester Park on May 9, the $40,000 WASBA Breeders Pace on May 23 and the $30,000 Westbred Fillies and Mares Classic on May 30.
And so well is Sensational Gabby performing that there are plans to set her for rich feature events next summer, including the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup.
Olivieri is well pleased that Sensational Gabby is now tractable in her races, but he remains tight-lipped about what gear changes he has made to cure her bad habits.
Sensational Gabby was an easing 13/4 second favourite on Friday night when most punters pinned their faith on Soho Valencia, who was a heavily-supported 2/1 on favourite from the No. 2 barrier on the front line.
However, the anticipated battle for supremacy never really eventuated, withfiring out Sensational Gabby from the No. 1 barrier and establishing a decisive early lead on the opposition, leaving Soho Valencia in the breeze, but a couple of lengths behind the flying pacemaker. After a 29.3sec. first 400m section of the final mile Sensational Gabby left the opposition floundering in her wake as she sped of the next quarters in 28.5sec., 27.7sec. and 28.4sec.
Sensational Gabby won by two lengths from Soho Valencia, with almost a length to Code Red (9/1) in third place after he had trailed the leader throughout.
The five-year-old WA-bred Sensational Gabby has now amassed $527,495 from 27 wins and six placings from 48 starts.
Sensational Gabby's win gave Lewis the third leg of a winning treble in consecutive events --- after wins with Shirlz Sensation and Lovers Delight. Lewis almost landed four wins in a row (in the four legs of the quadrella) when Pembrook Henry set the pace and finished second to Erris Lad.
MACHTU EQUALS STATE RECORD
Crack New Zealand-bred gelding Machtu is now a clear favourite for the $200,000 WA Derby on Friday week after his devastating performance to crush his rivals in the Cowden Ltd Derby Prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Machtu, prepared by leading trainer Gary Hall sen., is spot on for the rich classic and he equalled the State record for three-year-olds over 2536m when he rated 1.57.2 in beating Three Blind Mice by almost seven lengths. Robyns C C also rated 1.57.2 when she finished strongly to win a race for fillies last August.
What made Machtu's performance all the more impressive was that he worked hard without cover for much of the way before storming away from his rivals in the final stages with a final 400m in 28.2sec.
After unplaced runs at his first two starts in New Zealand as a two-year-old in December 2012, Machtu has won at seven of his next eight starts. His five WA starts have produced four wins and a fighting second to stablemate Elegant Christian.
Machtu, favourite at 3/1 on, started from barrier four and raced three wide for the first 200m before Clint Hall restrained him back to settle in ninth position. Hall started a three-wide run after 900m and Machtu quickly moved alongside the pacemaker So Ubettabelieveit. Machtu surged to the front 270m from home and careered away from his rivals.
Three Blind Mice, trained by Barry Howlett, was a 19/1 chance who raced without cover during the first lap and then gained the one-out, one-back trail behind Classic American before being shuffled back to seventh at the bell. He finished powerfully, out wide, to be a splendid second. Life Live Fast (66/1) enjoyed an ideal pegs run throughout and fought on along the inside to be third, with Zacharia finishing solidly into fourth place.
Machtu, who has earned $51,038 from seven wins and a second from ten starts, is the fourth foal out ofmare Letatalk, who managed to win only once from 20 New Zealand starts for stakes of just $3938.
SHIRLZ SENSATION IS ON THE RISE
Four-year-old Shirlz Sensation looks set for a bright career after another outstanding performance to score an effortless victory in the Community Newspaper Group Westbred final at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Starting favourite at evens from barrier two on the back line, Shirlz Sensational was driven aggressively bybefore scoring by three lengths from Smooth Caesar (6/1), with the strongly-supported 9/4 second fancy Soho Jackman one and a half lengths farther back in third place.
Oneheart Twofists jumped straight to the front from barrier three and he was joined by Shirlz sensation 700m after the start after a slow 37.9sec. lead time and 30.9sec. opening quarter of the final mile.
The third quarter whizzed by in 28.1sec. before Lewis sent Shirlz Sensation to the front with 230m to travel. The final quarter was covered in a sparkling 27.8sec. and Shirlz Sensation rated a smart 1.57 over the 2130m.
Soho Jackman started from the outside of the back line and did a good job to finish third. He was last 1050m from home before sustaining a solid three-wide burst.
Shirlz Sensation, part-owned and trained by Mike Beech, has turned the corner this season, with his past seven starts producing five wins, a second and a third. He was also extremely impressive last Friday week when he raced without cover before winning by more than ten lengths. He now has raced 22 times for seven wins and three placings for stakes of $58,720.
LOVERS DELIGHT IS GETTING TOUGHER
Lightly-raced six-year-old Lovers Delight, a noted frontrunner, revealed improved stamina and determination when he raced in the breeze before beating the pacemaker Lord Lombo in the $25,000 Pick Of The Little Scrapbooking Clarke final at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Trained at Capel byand driven by , Lovers Delight, the heavily-supported 3/1 favourite, simply carried too many guns for his 11 rivals.
Lord Lombo, a 9/1 chance, was first into stride from barrier two and Lewis then was quite content to allow Lovers Delight to settle in the breeze. After a third section of the final mile in 28.1sec. Lord Lombo looked set to score an upset win. But he was unable to withstand the finishing effort of Lovers Delight who got to the front in the final 25m and scored by 2m at a 1.57.6 rate over 2130m.
Outsider Franco Torres overcame the disadvantage of starting from the outside of the back line when he ran on from eighth (on the pegs) at the bell to be third, a half-head in front of polemarker Benjamin Banneker.
The New Zealand-bred Lovers Delight has raced 22 times in WA for eight wins and eight placings to take his career record to32 starts for 12 wins, ten placings and $170,203. He now graduates to an M3 classification and looks set for many more successes.
BREAKTHROUGH SUCCESS FOR MISSISSIPPI BELL
Four-year-old Mississippi Bell, unplaced at her only seven previous appearances at Gloucester Park, made a significant breakthrough when her Waroona trainer Bob Mellsop drove her to a convincing victory in the 2130m Ross North Group Mares Pace on Friday night.
Mississippi Bell, a 12/1 chance from the inside of the back line, relished the run of the race behind the pacemaker Awesome Desire (13/4) before Mellsop eased her into the clear in the closing stages. She ran on determinedly to hit the front 80m from the post and draw away to beat Awesome Desire by almost a length, with 20/1 chance Mene Jaccka coming from three back on the pegs to fill third position.
Love In The Dark, a newcomer from Queensland, was strongly supported to start favourite at 10/9 on at her WA debut for Byford trainer-reinsman. She was beaten for early speed from the No. 3 barrier and worked hard in the breeze before fading to finish eighth.
Mississippi Bell rated 2.0.3 and took her record to 28 starts for six wins and one placings for stakes of $33,032. She is by American stallionout of mare Firestorm Whitby and is certainly bred to be a good winner.
Firestorm Whitby's dam Tempting Franco produced five winners, including Typhoon Whitby, who had 46 starts for 17 wins, seven placings and $163,751. Typhoon Whitby finished second to The Kindly One in the $100,000 1999 Bathurst Gold Tiara, won the $60,000 State Sires Series for two-year-old fillies at Gloucester Park in August 1999 and was fourth behind Tupelo Rose in the 2000 Victoria oaks.
Mississippi bell also is closely related to former outstanding pacer Franco Tiger, who amassed $991,387 from 43 wins and 36 placings from 116 starts. Franco Tiger's victories included the 1992 Miracle Mile, the 1992 Australian Pacing Championship, the 1992 Queensland Pacing Championship and the 1993 Treuer Memorial. He also finished second to Westburn Grant in the 1992 interdominion championship at Moonee Valley and third behind The Harlem Boy and Jack Morris in the 1993 WA Pacing Cup.
SPRINT TRIP SUITS CARTERS ROCKET
Carters Rocket, a flop when he led and faded to third behind Wolowitz over 2190m at Northam last Tuesday, appreciated returning to a sprint journey when he scored an all-the-way victory in the 1730m Kennards Hire Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
His one-length win over Ima Grumpy Jasper at a 1.57.78 rate ended a losing sequence of 12, which included only two placed efforts.
Polemarker Im Clean Cut, a surprising 5/4 on favourite after finishing ninth, twelfth and eleventh at his three previous starts, was beaten out at the start by Carters Rocket (second fancy at 17/4) from the No. 2 barrier.
This proved decisive.gave Carters Rocket his head and the New Zealand-bred five-year-old by sped through the first 400m section of the final mile in 28.7sec. before Brown was able to give the gelding a breather with a leisurely second quarter in only 31.9sec.
Carters Rocket covered the final quarters in 29.8sec. and 28.2sec. and won from Ima Grumpy Jasper, a 12/1 chance who ran on from eighth in the middle stages. Im Clean Cut trailed the pacemaker before getting a clear passage in the final stages to finish gamely into third place.
Carters Rocket, trained by Greg and, won twice from seven New Zealand starts and has been a handy performer in Western Australia where his 38 starts have produced eight wins and seven placings. He now has a record of 46 starts for ten wins, ten placings and $57,931.
Carters Rocket is out of the unraced Pocket Rose, whose full-sister Tupelo Rose was a champion performer who earned $879,867 from 35 wins and 25 placings from 101 starts. Hollywood Rose, a mare by Butler B G, failed to win from 20 starts in the early 1990s.
However, Tupelo Rose quickly developed into a superstar who won several group 1 and group 2 events as a juvenile. She won two group 1 classics for fillies as a two-year-old at Alexandra Park in 1999 before winning the New Zealand Great Northern Oaks, the Victoria Oaks, the Queensland Oaks and Australian Oaks the following year.
Tupelo Rose won 12 races in New Zealand, 12 in Australia, one in Canada and ten in America.
Four-year-old Am Opulent, a group 1 classic winner as a two-year-old in New Zealand, took full advantage of the coveted No. 1 barrier at Gloucester Park when she gave a bold frontrunning display to win the 2130m Gannons Mares Pace on Friday night.
Favourite at 7/4 on, Am Opulent was driven with supreme confidence by, who gave the mare her head when she dashed over the final 800m in 57.5sec. She won by a neck at a 1.57.3 rate from 15/1 chance Bettor Whitby, who trailed her throughout. Jungle Genie (13/2), a stablemate of the winner, sustained a three-wide burst from last in the middle stages to be a neck away in third place.
Am Opulent, who ended a losing sequence of ten with an easy victory at Harvey at her previous outing, gives every indication of many more wins. She has earned $162,757 from ten wins and eight placings from 31 starts. A winner of three races from seven starts in New Zealand, Am Opulent has had 24 starts in WA for seven wins and seven placings.
She revealed abundant early promise and was successful in the group 1 Caduceus Club Classic for two-year-old fillies at Alexandra Park in April 2012. Her dam Imprint (by) earned only $22,622 from three wins and three placings from 14 starts, but she is closely related to Smart Son, who earned $347,805 from 41 wins and 59 placings from 226 starts. He was successful in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
Am Opulent completed a double in the first two events on Friday night's program for Forrestdale trainers Greg and, who prepared Carters Rocket for his win in the opening event.
The Bonds continued on their winning ways with a double at Kellerberrin on Sunday afternoon when Showstopper and Jungle Jewel scored all-the-way victories.
DASHING CHRISTIAN ENDS LOSING RUN OF 14
New Zealand-bred seven-year-old Dashing Christian ended a losing sequence of 14 when he unleashed a powerful burst which enabled him to get up in the final stride to snatch victory by a nose over 7/4 favourite Mighty Flying Thomas in the 2536m Plscrapbooking.com.au Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Dashing Christian, third favourite at 5/1, started from the inside of the back line and Clint Hall had him in fifth position, three back on the pegs, for most of the race, with Shifting Sand (14/1) setting the pace.
Mighty Flying Thomas settled in tenth place beforesent him forward after 550m to move into the breeze. After a third quarter of the final mile in a brisk 28.2sec., Mighty Flying Thomas got his head in front with 375m to travel and looked set for victory when he led clearly in the home straight. But Dashing Christian sprouted wings and gained the verdict by the barest of margins after a final quarter in 28.9sec. The Feather Foot (9/2) ran on strongly from sixth at the bell to be third.
Dashing Christian, who had finished encouraging seconds at his two previous starts, gave trainer Gary Hall sen. and Clint Hall a double after they had combined to win the previous event with Machtu.
Dashing Christian, a winner at one of his seven New Zealand starts, raced seven times in New South Wales for seven wins and six placings. He has had 23 starts in WA for three wins and nine placings to take his career earnings to $105,955 from 11 wins and 19 placings. He is then second foal out ofmare Dreamy Dash, who managed just one win and seven placings from 33 starts for earnings of $17,165.
ERRIS LAD MAKES THE MOST OF DROP-DOWN RULE
The drop-down rule introduced a couple of years ago which enables pacers assessed M2 and better to drop down a grade has proved a tremendous boon for WA-bred Erris Lad, who has returned to winning form three times after receiving this advantage.
Horses handicapped M2 or better drop down a grade after completing a losing sequence of ten.
Erris Lad, trained at Hazelmere by, dropped back from an M2 to an M1 classification after chalking up a losing run of ten when a sound fourth behind Major Fury last Friday week. This enabled the seven-year-old to start from the front line in Friday night's 2503m TABtouch Handicap, an event for M1 and better-class pacers.
took advantage of the front-line draw and had Erris Lad, a 20/1 outsider, poised to strike from the one-out, one-back position, with 3/1 chance Pembrook Henry setting the pace. Erris Lad finished full of running to take the lead 100m from the post. He went on to beat Pembrook Henry by a half-length, with a neck back to 16/1 chance Hez Got the Nod, who finished strongly out five wide after racing three back on the pegs.
Flyalong Falcon, favourite at 5/2, lost his chance by galloping at the start. Mister Sarkozy also galloped and The Pacing Priest broke soon after the start. Flyalong Falcon came from tenth in the middle stages to be fifth before breaking on the home turn and dropping back to finish last.
Erris Lad has been the beneficiary of the drop-down rule three times. His previous victory was last November when having his first start after a losing run of ten. His previous win before that success came after he had also enjoyed a downgrade.
Under the old handicapping regulations Erris Lad would now have an M5 classification. His win on Friday night returns him to an M2 mark.
FLYING START PAVES THE WAY FOR LA PASSIONE
A flying start from the outside barrier paved the way for New Zealand-bred five-year-old La Passione's impressive victory in the 2536m McInerney Ford Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Darling Downs trainerrevved up La Passione from the unfavourable No. 7 barrier and the gelding quickly charged past polemarker Good Luck Dollar and into the lead.
Cortopassi was able to get La Passione to relax and the 4/1 second favourite coasted through the first two sections of the final mile in 31.8sec. and 30.7sec. before dashing over the next two quarters in 28.7sec. and 29.1sec. to win by two lengths from Black Cracker, who fought on doggedly after racing without cover. Good Luck Dollar trailed the leader and finished a neck away in third place.
La Passione, by American stallion, is beginning to realise his potential after arriving in Western Australia about 14 months ago after having had 18 starts in New Zealand for four wins and seven placings. His 21 WA starts have produced four wins and six placings and he should develop into a handy and consistent city performer.