Easter Cup highlights Gloucester Park

09:13 PM 19 Apr 2014 NZST
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Ross Olivieri with connections of veteran pacer Finbar Abbey
Ross Olivieri with connections of veteran pacer Finbar Abbey

Veteran harness racing pacer Finbar Abbey, a Metropolitan maiden performer, caused a major surprise when he celebrated his 100th start by working hard and winning the $40,000 Garrards Horse And Hound Easter Cup at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

The New Zealand-bred eight-year-old, a recent arrival at Ross Olivieri's Oakford stables, started from barrier five off the front in the 2902m stand and he raced three wide early and in the breeze at various stages before finishing with great determination to defeat the fast-finishing Polak (22/1) by a neck, with the 7/4 on favourite Alta Christiano in third place.

Punters were stunned when Finbar Abbey surged past Alta Christiano 70m from the post. And then Polak, who had raced three back on the pegs, got clear and flew home to snatch second place from Alta Christiano.

This was Alta Christiano's first defeat in six starts in Australia.

Despite his lowly status, Finbar Abbey, an M0-class pacer, had many admirers after winning 2500m stands in moderate company at Northam and Gloucester Park at his first two starts for Olivieri and reinsman Chris Voak. He went out fifth favourite at 12/1. Before entering Olivieri's stables, Finbar Abbey had managed just one placing (a third at Harvey) from his 11 previous starts.

Finbar Abbey galloped out for a few strides and settled down in sixth position. Alta Christiano just walked away off the front and was almost 60m behind the early pacemaker and 7/1 chance Hez Got The Nod, with Clint Kimes getting Polak away to a flying start from the inside of the 10m line to move in behind the leader.

Sanjaya galloped badly off the front and Rocket Reign met severe interference. Finbar Abbey raced three wide early before moving to the breeze. He gained the one-out, one-back sit after Alta Christiano dashed forward. But when Clint Hall sent Alta Christiano to the front 950m after the start, Finbar Abbey again was racing without cover.

Finbar Abbey regained the one-out, one-back sit with two laps to travel when 33/1 chance Shardons Rocket moved to the breeze. Voak eased Finbar Abbey three wide 650m from home and the old gelding moved alongside the pacemaker Alta Christiano passing the 420m mark.

Finbar Abbey gained the upper hand in the final stages and then held off the fast-finishing Polak, who flashed home after getting clear. The stewards suspended Kimes (Polak's driver) for 17 days for causing interference to Braemoor.

The final quarters were run in 29.3sec. and 29.5sec. and Finbar Abbey rated 2.0.8 which was 0.1sec. outside the track record for 2902m set by Christian Spirit when he won the Fremantle Cup in January 2008. The only faster mile rates set by winners of the Fremantle Cup have been: Village Kid (1.59.8 over 2500m in 1987), Allwoods Chief (2.0.3, 2900m, 1998), (The Falcon Strike (2.0.3, 2900m, 2003) and Patches (2.0.4, 2907m, 2006). Scruffy Murphy rated 2.0.8 when he was successful over 2902m in 2008.

The 25-year-old Voak admitted he was surprised at Finbar Abbey's excellent performance, saying: "Six months ago you wouldn't have thought that Finbar Abbey would be winning an Easter Cup, beating the horses he has tonight.

"I guess the little bit of a burn (in the first lap) took the sting out of Alta Christiano. But you can't take anything away from Finbar Abbey. I punched the breeze for the best part of a lap and he was three wide from the 750m --- and he's actually outstayed Alta Christiano and then fought off Polak over the final 50 metres.

"I have nothing but praise for this horse. I really didn't think he could do something like that, even though his two previous runs were really good. On the home turn he felt big and to his credit he just lifted and lifted and showed really good fighting qualities. Alta Christiano is a pretty big name, and he did a lot of work. But Finbar Abbey didn't have it that easy himself."

The victory gave Olivieri his fourth success in an Easter Cup, after wins with Abmidas (1997), OK Windermere (who dead-heated with Patches in 2006) and Arma Harris (2010).

Olivieri said that part-owner David Gravolin was holidaying in Hawaii and that three of his part-owners were away, working on oil rigs off the coast of Western Australia.

Finbar Abbey, by American stallion Pacific Rocket, is the third foal out of Miles McCool mare Casino Abbey, who won once from 11 starts in New Zealand. Finbar Abbey raced 63 times in New Zealand for five wins and 14 placings and his 37 WA starts have produced nine wins and nine placings. His overall record stands at 100 starts for 14 wins, 23 placings and $113,531.

LIBERTYBELLE MIDFREW HAS WA OAKS AT HER MERCY

Shannon Suvaljko was lavish in his praise for Libertybelle Midfrew after driving her to an effortless victory in the Garrards Horse And Hound On-Course Now WA Oaks prelude at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

The New Zealand-bred filly simply annihilated her 11 rivals and appears to have the $150,000 WA Oaks on May 9 at her mercy.

"She's probably one of the best horses I have driven," said the 45-year-old Suvaljko. "She's got gears, she's strong and is all class. I haven't let her go in her three wins (in WA) and we're just waiting for the Oaks now. She is really strong and tough and she will be scary if you let her go."

Libertybelle Midfrew, purchased at a high price in New Zealand early this year by Albert Walmsley, has cruised to victory by an average winning margin of four lengths at her first three appearances in WA, rating 1.58.5 over 1730m at Gloucester Park and 1.57.8 over 2185m at Pinjarra before her win by 19.5m over The Parade on Thursday night, rating 1.58.1 over 2536m.

The Christian Cullen filly is prepared at Hazelmere by Mike Reed and she appears classes ahead of all other three-year-old fillies in the State.

On Thursday night she started from barrier four on the back line and was favourite at evens. Polemaker Harper Grace set the pace and Suvaljko was content to settle Libertybelle Midfrew in ninth position in the one-wide line.

All About Pink dashed forward to move to the breeze after 600m and Suvaljko bided his time until he sent Libertybelle Midfrew forward, three wide, 1050m from home. She got a half-length in front of Harper Grace at the 650m mark before surging to a clear lead 470m from home. She then coasted to the line more than six lengths clear of 15/4 second fancy The Parade, who finished doggedly after enjoying the perfect one-out, one-back trail.

Highest Royalty (8/1) trailed the pacemaker and finished a sound third, with harper Grace (9/2) in fourth place.

Libertybelle Midfrew has earned $151,007 from four wins and four placings from 14 starts.

SOHO VALENCIA IS A RISING STAR

Victorian-bred five-year-old Soho Valencia gave further proof that he will be a star in feature events at the next Christmas carnival when he outclassed his rivals in the 1730m Retravision Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

Favourite at 5/2 on, Soho Valencia began speedily from the No. 3 barrier and gave a faultless frontrunning exhibition before coasting to a four-length victory over 18/1 chance Menelaus of Sparta, who finished strongly from sixth at the bell. Little Boy Blue (7/1) raced in the breeze and was a fighting third.

Soho Valencia, produced in grand shape by leading trainer Gary Hall sen. and driven by his elder son Clint for owner Rob Watson, sped over the final 800m in 55.8sec. and rated a smart 1.55.1 to take his record to 21 wins and nine placings from 37 starts for earnings of $332,782. A winner of 13 races in Victoria, one in Queensland and four in New South Wales, he has had five starts in WA for three wins and two seconds.

He is living up to the promise he showed when he was a star juvenile when his victories included the $100,000 group 1 Bathurst Gold Crown for two-year-olds in March 2011 and the $40,000 group 3 Bathurst Gold Chalice for three-year-olds a year later.

By Art Major, he is the sixth foal out of Benelise (a mare by American stallion Vintner), who won at eight of her 14 Victorian starts in modest company in 2000-01. Soho Valencia's half-brother Yrubla (by Jet Laag) won the group 1 $100,000 Bathurst Gold Crown for two-year-olds in March 2007.

"My guess is that Soho Valencia will get to an M4 or M5 mark and then go for a spell before coming back for the summer time," said Clint Hall.

MIGHTY FLYING THOMAS A 2536m SPECIALIST

For what he might lack in brilliance, Mighty Flying Thomas makes up for with his dogged determination, his stamina and fighting spirit.

All these attributes were on display at Gloucester Park on Thursday night when he overcame the disadvantage of having to race without cover for almost two laps by scoring a splendid victory in the Garrards Horse And Hound One Stop Shop Pace.

Favourite at 13/8 from the outside of the back line, Mighty Flying Thomas simply outstayed his 11 rivals in beating 9/1 chance Mohegan Sun by 4m, with Justlikelindt (28/1) sustaining a strong three-wide burst from fifth at the bell to be third.

Mighty Flying Thomas, trained at Bickley by Peter Anderson, has proved to be a stout-hearted stayer since he arrived in WA from New Zealand in July 2012. He has proved to be a specialist over 2536m, the distance of Thursday night's event, having raced six times over that journey for five wins and a second (beaten a nose by Dashing Christian). He also won at his only appearance over 2569m (at Bunbury last November).

It was a confident and aggressive drive by Morgan Woodley that paved the way for his latest victory. Mighty Flying Thomas settled down in ninth position and with Ideas Man setting a moderate pace Tom Buchanan vacated the one-out, one-back position with 9/1 chance Mohegan Sun to move into the breeze 650m after the start.

Woodley then seized the initiative and sent Mighty Flying Thomas forward, out three wide, to assume the position in the breeze with just under two laps to travel.

Woodley was able to get Mighty Flying Thomas to relax as Ideas Man ambled through the first two 400m sections of the final mile in 31.9sec. and 31.6sec. The tempo then increased markedly, with the third quarter being covered in 28.8sec. Mighty Flying Thomas got to the front 250m from the post and easily held Mohegan Sun at bay, with a final quarter in 29.4sec.

Mighty Flying Thomas had been placed at his three previous starts at Gloucester Park and Woodley said that the Falcon Seelster six-year-old deserved to break through for another win and break a losing sequence of 13.

"He has been knocking on the door," Woodley said. "He's been going tremendously well and has been doing all the work in his races and just coming up short. The easy early sections really worked out well for him."

Mighty Flying Thomas, a winner of six races from 27 starts in New Zealand, is proving a good buy for Ian and Hazel Brandon, Ian Sermon, Lee Bunney and Ken Casellas. The gelding cost a little more than $36,000 landed in Western Australia and his record in the State now stands at 36 starts for nine wins, 12 placings and stakes of $102,744. His career record stands at 63 starts for 15 wins, 19 placings and $142,783.

Mighty Flying Thomas is the fourth foal out of Fleet's Pocket, who produced talented mare Flying Pocketlands, who has had 90 starts for 21 wins, 29 placings and $442,423. Mighty Flying Thomas is also related to good winners Our Graedy, Passion N Glory and Sparks Will Fly.

COPAGRIN JUST LOVES LEADING

Noted frontrunner Copagrin broke through for an overdue win and ended a losing sequence of eight when Callan Suvaljko drove him to a smart all-the-way victory in the 2536m Garrards Horse And Hound Open Daily Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

Seven of his previous eight wins had come after he had set the pace and punters rallied to support him into favouritism at 5/2 when he drew the prized No. 1 barrier.

Copagrin relished the pacemaking role and he sped over the final 800m in 57.1sec. to win comfortably by 5m from 5/1 chance Lord Lombo, who finished gamely after trailing the leader all the way.

Copagrin went into the race as an M1 performer against several better-performed rivals, including M6-class runners Red Salute, Crombie and Passion Stride, Whose Mistake (M5) and Benjamin Banneker (M3). He had won once from his previous 25 starts and the strong support for him further illustrates the tremendous advantage horses have from the No. 1 barrier at Gloucester Park.

The WA-bred Copagrin, trained at West Swan by John Guagliardo, has been an excellent moneyspinner, with his 59 starts producing 14 wins, 13 placings and stakes of $124,328.

By Grinfromeartoear, he is out of Red Hot Copper, whose first foal Copper Beach Girl earned $156,851 from 14 wins and 24 placings from 84 starts. Her wins included the group 3 WASBA Breeders Stakes in May 2011.

HALL'S DARING DRIVE PAYS DIVIDENDS

A daring drive by Clint Hall paid handsome dividends when Indomitable, the rank outsider at 55/1, scoring a brilliant victory in the Next Payments Mares Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

In an action-packed event Hall took the bit between his teeth and set Indomitable alight as the field of 12 approached the bell. Indomitable, who had settled down in eighth position, charged forward and swept past 45/1 chance La Stella Del Mare, who had produced a lighting burst to charge past the 2/1 favourite Kanata Queen and into the lead 600m after the start.

Hall gave Indomitable her head and she sped over the third quarter of the final mile in 28.2sec. to leave her rivals floundering. The final section took 29.7sec. and Indomitable won by three and a half lengths from 11/4 second fancy Four Sisters, who finished determinedly from sixth on the pegs at the bell. Kanata Queen fought on to be third ahead of La Stella Del Mare.

The winner, trained at Wanneroo by Barry Morrison, rated a slick 1.54.6 over the 1730m and she boosted her record to seven wins and 12 placings from 39 starts for earnings of $56,537. She is a full-sister to Indomitable Saab, who has amassed $154,491 from 16 wins and 12 placings from 59 starts.

"She ran well the last time I drove her in town and they (the opposition) set it up tonight and I was happy to slide around to the breeze," Hall said. "She moved around so quickly that I decided to go on with it and I don't think it would have mattered if she had stayed in the breeze."

KERSLEY SALUTES A GLOW BRIGHT EFFORT

An exuberant, triumphant victory salute by trainer-reinsman Bill Kersley as Glow Bright passed the post an easy winner of the 2503m Garrards Horse And Hound Supporting Harness Racing Handicap at Gloucester Park on Thursday night was greeted with applause by punters who had supported the WA-bred five-year-old into favouritism at 7/4.

Glow Bright, a last-start all-the-way winner in slow time in a 2503m stand nine days earlier, repeated the dose when he got away smartly from the inside of the front line and set a dawdling early pace with opening quarters of the final mile in 32.3sec., and 30.8sec. before Kersley released the brakes and the gelding sprinted over the final two quarters in 28.4sec. and 28.3sec.

Glow Bright rated a slow 2.4.9 in beating Pacific Playboy (14/1) by one and a half lengths, with a half-length to Bartowski (16/1) in third place.

Referring to the slow early sectionals, the 47-year-old Kersley said: "I'll take it if they give it to me. It's nice to get a winner on a Friday night (even though it was a Thursday night). I'm more than happy to salute every week.

"He has done a really good job and is just shy of $100,000 and he's won an M0 tonight. You'd like a lot of them in your stable. I think he can keep earning. He's maturing and every time we give him a break and bring him back he's got mentally and physically stronger. Now he is right on top of his game."

Glow Bright was placed twice in group 1 events for two-year-olds in the winter of 2011, finishing third to Major Catastrophe in the Pearl Classic and third to Cyclone Mitch in the State Sires final.

NEW OWNERS CASH IN

Henley Brook trainer Darryl Howes and his wife Tracey are more than happy that they encouraged a few of their friends to get involved in harness racing a few months ago.

Tracey Howes, Wayne and Dianne Riekie, Brad and Rhonda Swinbourn, Barbara McGuire and Archie Laidlaw outlaid $7500 to purchase Senator Whitby when he was advertised for sale.

And when Senator Whitby, driven by Chris Lewis, led all the way to score a decisive one-length victory over Last Cheque in the 2130m Garrards Horse And Hound Thank You Loyal Customers Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night the WA-bred gelding had boosted his earnings to $8395 for his first-time owners.

This was Senator Whitby's seventh start for Howes and the new owners and the small gelding has notched one win, two seconds and a third placing.

"They're new owners to the industry and they're all happy," said Howes, who is confident Senator Whitby will continue to perform well. "He is still only young and is still an M0. And he's a little trier who keeps trying, and that's the main thing."

Senator Whitby, whose career record stands at 48 starts for seven wins, ten placings and $49,769, is by Artiscape and is out of Zerina Whitby, who earned $107,827 from 15 wins and 13 placings from 53 starts. Senator Whitby is related to dozens of winners, including Fiscal Miss, Remit, Whitbys Miss Penny, Whitby Heritage, Whitby Timer, Whitbys Merit, Montana Anna, La Roya Whitby and Aikido Whitby.

SAY IT NOW, FIRST-UP, IS TOO GOOD

Hopeland breeder-owner-trainer Kevin Charles produced WA-bred five-year-old Say It Now in fine fettle for his first appearance for five months when the gelding made the most of the coveted No. 1 barrier to lead all the way in the third heat of the 2130m Garrards Horse And Hound The Johnson Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

Confidently handled by Chris Lewis, the well-supported 5/1 third favourite revelled in his pacemaking role and won decisively from The Black Lord (12/1) and Christian Banner (6/1). Ben Cartwright, the 5/4 favourite, worked hard without cover and dead-heated for fourth with What God Knows.

Say It Now, having his first start for five months, contested two trials at Byford before Thursday night's assignment for a 22m fourth behind Mister Sheedy and a 14m third behind Lord Lexus.

Say It Now followed quarters of 31.3sec., 30.8sec. and 30.4sec. with a smart final section in 28.3sec. to win well at a 1.59.5 rate.

"Kevin thought we would go well, going on his latest trial," Lewis said. "But trials aren't races. It was a bit of a challenge early, but we were able to settle down pretty nicely. He does relax well and that was an advantage.

"With a lap to go I didn't really know what I had. I hadn't asked him for an effort and he had travelled well, so I was confident that there was something left in the tank. But you never know until you hit the line."

Say It Now, who was bred and is owned by Charles and his son Kody, has earned $80,161 from ten wins and ten placings from 42 starts. As a three-year-old in March 2012 he won the group 3 Country derby at Gloucester Park, beating Major Catastrophe by four lengths, after winning the South-West Derby at Pinjarra, beating Maggies Mystery.

He raced 13 times as a four-year-old in New South Wales, winning minor races at Menangle, Newcastle and Penrith. He is related to former champion pacer Preux Chevalier, whose 40 wins from 53 starts in the 1980s included the 1985 interdominion championship at Moonee Valley when he defeated Village Kid.

VAPOUR IS LAUREN'S FAVOURITE

Four-year-old gelding Vapour and 19-year-old driver Lauren Jones have formed a wonderful partnership in recent weeks --- and they kept up the good work with an exciting victory in the 2130m Sully's Painting Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Thursday night.

Jones, a recent arrival from Queensland, has settled in well as a stablehand at leading trainer Gary Hall senior's Serpentine establishment and she has driven the Hall-trained Vapour seven times for four wins and three third placings.

"Something clicks and he's my favourite horse in the stable," said Jones after Vapour had finished strongly to gain a last-stride victory by a nose over 5/4 favourite Tuapeka Kahu.

Vapour, second fancy at 5/2, started from the outside of the front line and Jones restrained the gelding back to a conspicuous last, about 30m from the early leader Franco Jackson.

Tuapeka Kahu was working hard in the breeze and Jones drove patiently. Vapour was ninth at the bell, following the three-wide run of Knight Crusader. Knight Crusader began to wilt in the back straight and Jones switched Vapour four wide 300m from home. Tupeka Kahu then took the lead with 220m to travel, but he was overhauled in the final stride by the flying Vapour, who sprinted over the final 400m in 28.6sec. and rated 1.58.8.

Vapour, by American stallion Jeremes Jet, is the first foal out of Christian Cullen mare Enjoy. He has had 13 starts in Western Australia for seven wins and five placings after racing 16 times in New Zealand for three wins and five placings.

by Ken Casellas

 

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