Day At The Track

Gloucester Park featured the $150,000 Oaks

02:13 PM 11 May 2014 NZST
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Connections of Oaks winner Libertybelle Midfrew
Connections of Oaks winner Libertybelle Midfrew
Libertybelle Midfrew NZ, Gannon's Western Australian Oaks 2014

It was the frustration of Libertybelle Midfrew constantly being beaten by champion filly Venus Serena in feature events in New Zealand last summer that prompted her owners to put her on the market in February --- and that's when astute West Australian trainer Mike Reed pounced and purchased the brilliant daughter of Christian Cullen for long-time friends and clients Albert and Julie Walmsley.

Reed had travelled to New Zealand with the prime objective of buying a yearling colt for the Walmsleys. But he changed his mind when he heard that Libertybelle Midfrew was available, albeit at a high price, well in excess of $100,000.

It was an inspired decision and  Midfrew now ranks as the best three-year-old filly in Australia. She remained unbeaten for Reed at her five Australian starts when she gave another sensational performance to completely outclass her rivals in the $150,000 Gannon's WA Oaks at Gloucester Park on Friday night. This took her prizemoney for her new owners to $130,215 and boosted her career record to 16 starts for six wins, four placings and $261,227.

The sky appears the limit for Libertybelle Midfrew, who will now be sent for a spell before being set for rich feature events next season, including the Golden Nugget Championship.

"Three months ago we were wondering if we'd ever have another winner at Gloucester Park," Albert Walmsely said. "We've had moderate success, but not recently. And here we are now having a lovely celebration with Libertybelle Midfrew.

"Mike said he was going to New Zealand to try to buy a yearling and then he rang me up and said that he hadn't got a yearling colt, but had a three-year-old filly, and the rest is history. We go back some 20 years. He rang me up in 1994 and asked me if I wanted to go halves with his wife (Sue) with Just Packapunch. And that was the start of a business relationship which has now become a very firm friendship."

Just Packapunch proved to be a successful venture and the gelding showed his class with wins in a WA Pacing Cup prelude in December 1994 and the Easter Cup and Stratton Cup in 1995.

Libertybelle Midfrew, favourite at 10/1 on, started swiftly from barrier five and Shannon Suvaljko took her past the polemarker Artistic Copper and into the lead after 450m. Libertybelle Midfrew then ambled through the first 400m section of the final mile in 31.9sec. before increasing the tempo with quarters of 30.4sec., 29.3sec. and 28.2sec.

She careered away from her 11 rivals in the final stages to win, untouched, by more than seven lengths from The Parade (22/1), with a half-length to Dontdoubtme in third place. She rated 2.0.4 over the 2536m journey on the rain-soaked track.

"She felt really good," Suvaljko said. "She's got better with every race. Tonight she was spot on and felt just amazing and went amazing. She's scary to drive and went to the line bolting. She would have run another half in 56sec. if I had asked her."

Libertybelle Midfrew is the fifth foal out of Live Or Die mare Lucinda Midfrew, who had 49 starts for eight wins, nine placings and $52,599.


Champion pacer Im Themightyquinn is being set for rich feature events in Brisbane in July after scoring a splendid first-up victory in the Gannon's Pacing Colours Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Leading West Australian trainer Gary Hall sen. said that he would take Im Themightyquinn and his brilliant stablemate Alta Christiano to Queensland for a series of major races.

Hall said that Im Themightyquinn, now a nine-year-old and nearing the twilight of a magnificent career, was being set to contest the group 2 $60,000 Garrard's Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park on July 5, the group 1 $100,000 Blacks A Fake Championship over 2100m on July 19 and the $40,000 Redcliffe Cup on August 1.

Alta Christiano is being set for two group 3 $45,000 events at Albion Park --- the Four And Five-Year-Old Championship on July 12 and the Four-Year-Old Championship on July 19.

"There's a 20m maximum back mark for the Redcliffe Cup and he's got to have a start in a stand if he is to get a start in the Hunter Cup in Melbourne next season," Hall said.

Torrential rain fell before and during Friday night's race in which Im Themightquinn was making his much-anticipated return to racing after a seven-month injury-enforced absence. He was favourite at 7/4 on from barrier No. 5 on the front line of the 2130m event and most punters and pacing fans expected Hokonui Ben, second fancy at 6/4, to set the pace from barrier two.

However, Gary Hall jun. revved up Im Themightyquinn, who charged forward to burst to the lead after 170m. He was untroubled to surge past the polemarker Rocket Reign, who had easily beaten out Hokonui Ben. In a twinkling the result was a foregone conclusion.

After a modest lead time of 37.5sec., Im Themightyquinn pulled hard and was untroubled to record sectionals of 30.4sec., 29.2sec., 28.4sec. and 28.6sec. He won by just under a length at a 1.56.4 rate from Rocket Reign, with two lengths to Hokonui Ben in third spot.

"I had full intentions of going back at the start," Hall jun. said. "But when it was pouring and I got behind the mobile, with mud flying off the wheels, I changed my mind. I reckoned a $4.3 million horse didn't deserve to get mud in his face.

"I knew that I would have had trouble seeing if I was back in the field. He's not the nicest horse to drive when you can't see where you're going. He was very keen off the gate and I decided to use that speed. Then I was a bit worried about the fact that he pulled so hard and was in danger of choking down coming into the bell.

"He hasn't lost any will to win and he felt just as good as he always has. It was so exciting to be sitting behind him again."

Hall sen. said that he would run Im Themightyquinn in a Free-For-All at Gloucester Park next Friday night and was seriously contemplating starting star four-year-old Alta Christiano (an effortless winner on Friday night) in the same event.

"I am going to nominate both horses for the race which will have a preferential draw on M class," he said. "Alta Christiano is on an M1 mark and if there are only three M1s nominated he's got to draw one, two or three. I wouldn't want to start him off the back line."


Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri has conjured his magic to transform moderate country performer Selkie into a giant killer.

Five-year-old Selkie entered his stables only a month ago with a losing sequence of 12 and she was the first emergency for the $35,000 Schweppes Mix With The Best Race For Roses at Gloucester Park on Friday night. She gained a start when consistent in-form mare Jungle Genie was scratched.

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis, who was nominated to drive fellow frontmarker Mene Jaccka in the 2503m stand, then took the drive behind Selkie and Mark Reed was engaged for Mene Jaccka, who had been driven by Lewis when she led and won at Northam at her most recent outing.

Despite having managed just one placing at her previous 12 starts since winning in weak company at Busselton in December, Selkie was all the rage with punters and she was a firm 5/2 favourite.

Selkie stepped away speedily and was never under any pressure as she set the pace and romped to victory by three lengths over 10/1 chance Salliwood (who trailed her throughout), with outstanding mare Leda McNally, the backmarker off 50m, finishing powerfully from tenth at the bell to be third.

"Ross was telling me about a month ago to be ready to drive this horse ... and he was spot on," Lewis said. "She just moved along beautifully. The track was reasonably heavy on the inside and she handled that well and was always in control. I've got no doubt that in this type of competition that she will win more races. She's got a bit of class."

Managing part-owner David Gravolin praised Olivieri, Lewis and farrier Tommy Sheehy, saying: "Ross has done a sensational job with this mare and Chris drove her to perfection. Tommy has done a fantastic job with the shoeing and this has made her run a lot better."

Selkie, a winner at five of her 25 New Zealand starts, has won four times from 22 starts in WEA and now has a record of 47 starts for nine wins, five placings and $66,421.

Her win gave Olivieri and Lewis their third success in the Race For Roses. Olivieri trained Yippi Yi Yo (Craig Goldfinch) for her win in 1998 and he combined with Lewis to win with Arctic Fire in 2011. Lewis was also successful with the Graham Tindale-trained Lady de Beau in 2007.


Wanneroo businessman and prominent owner John Padberg and his wife, trainer Debbie, are celebrating their most successful 24 hours in the sport of harness racing.

A double with The Feather Foot ($21.60) and Hez Got The Nod ($8.40) at Gloucester Park on Friday night followed a treble with Spendthelot ($4.80), Sign In ($8.50) and What God Knows ($23.50) at Northam the previous evening.

And John Padberg attributes this great burst of form to a recent decision to work their horses harder.

"The reason for these successes is because we have changed our trackwork," he said. "We were tracking very soft and now we're changed our routine and are tracking a lot harder.

"Our star trackworkers over the past week have been Rocket Reign (second to Im Themightyquinn on Friday night), The Feather Foot, Spendthelot and Salliwood (second at 10/1 to Selkie in the Race For Roses on Friday night). The Padbergs also had two other placegetters (Alta Onassis and Harry Em) at the Northam meeting.

The Feather Foot has proved a tremendous bargain for Padberg and stable workers Michael Tenardi and Luke and Isaac Edwards, who outlaid just $4000 to claim the WA-bred seven-year-old last July. Since then the son of former champion The Falcon Strike was earned $38,053 from two city-class wins and ten placings from 26 starts to take his career record to 95 starts for 14, 23 placings and $172,921.

Luke Edwards drove the Feather Foot, a 20/1 chance, to a fine victory in the 2130m Gannon's WA Owned And Operated Pace on Friday night. After starting from the inside of the back line The Feather Foot trailed the pacemaker The Oyster Bar (9/2) before getting clear on the home and sprinting fast to beat that pacer by just over a length, with Our Arlington (4/1) running home strongly from the rear to be third.

"He's definitely a rails horse and he can reel off a real good time if he lands on the leader's back or three back on the fence," Edwards said. "We claimed him as a stable horse. John picked him out and we told him that he was mad. But he's been a good earner and is a favourite at the stable."

Hez Got The Nod, a 15/2 chance, made light of his back mark of 20m by scoring a fighting victory in the 2503m Gannon's Supporting Harness Racing Pace.

Driven by Shannon Suvaljko, he began speedily and raced in eighth position before starting a three-wide move approaching the bell. He sustained a strong run to be second at the 600m before taking the lead 300m from home and then fighting of determinedly to beat Will Of Iron, who broke for a couple of strides soon after the start, but then enjoyed a perfect run behind the pacemaker Melton Express. The margin was a head, with one metre to Sonic Classic, who finished solidly from eighth on the pegs at the bell.

"He flies the stand and makes up so much ground in the first 50 metres," Suvaljko said. "He is not just a leader; he can do some work."

Hez Got The Nod won once from 22 starts in New Zealand (in a low-grade non-winners event at Oamaru in January 2012) before having 11 starts in New South Wales for four wins and six placings. His record now stands at 55 starts for 12 wins, 23 placings and $95,491.

Hez Got the Nod is by Grinfromeartoear and is the third foal out of Falcon Seelster mare Dumbeath, the mother of Mevagissey (141 starts for 17 wins, 27 placings and $171,709) and Dartmoor (223 starts for 34 wins, 51 placings and $407,310). The 12-year-old Dartmoor won the group 1 Australian Pacing Championship from No Blue Manna and Hayton Brain at Gloucester Park in March 2008. He is still racing in claiming events in Victoria.


New Zealand-bred six-year-old Notabadexcuse, a bargain buy at $20,000 for prominent owner Glen Moore late last year, completed a highly successful evening for premier trainer Gary Hall sen. at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he scored a strong victory in the 1730m Schweppes Agrum Pathway Pace.

This gave Hall his fifth winner for the night, after victories with Vapour, Some Kinda Tactics, Alta Christiano and Im Themightyquinn.

Notabadexcuse was heavily supported to start favourite at 10/9 on and after starting from the No. 5 barrier on the front line and racing three wide in the early stages he worked hard in the breeze as 12/1 chance My lady of the Night set a solid pace.

Gary Hall jun. sent Notabadexcuse to the front 100m from the post and the Live Or Die gelding fought doggedly to win by a metre from 16/1 chance The Marble Ridge, who ran home strongly after trailing the pacemaker all the way.

"He's capable of going through the classes," said Hall sen., who has prepared the gelding for four starts for a win and a third placing for stakes of $6080. The gelding's overall record now is 53 starts for nine wins, 16 placings and $56,280.

The win gave Hall jun. his fourth win of the night, after scoring with Vapour, Alta Christiano and Im Themightyquinn.

Vapour (5/4) carried too many guns for his rivals in winning the 2130m Gannon's Trophies And Awards Pace. Vapour started from the back line and Hall settled him in seventh place in the one-wide line while polemarker and 7/4 second fancy Conniving Major Dave set a solid pace.

Hall started a three-wide move 1050m from home and Vapour moved to second with 500m to travel before bursting clear at the 150m mark and racing away to score by just under two lengths from Conniving Major Dave, with last-start winner Ohoka Squire a very close third after enjoying the run of the race behind the leader.

Vapour rated 1.56.3 after final sectionals of 28.2sec. and 28.7sec. "I thought his previous run (when ninth behind Alta Christiano) was his best run he's put up for us," Hall said. "He went three wide and Alta Christiano was out running in front. And Vapour never stopped making ground until the last 150m when he got a bit tired.

"I was really impressed with that run and I threw him out as one of my best drives for the night. I got outside the leader about the 400m and he really dropped the bit and I thought that we had done our dash. But when I pulled the plugs and got stuck into him he really found another gear. At the 400m I didn't think that he would race away with it as he did."

Vapour, by American stallion Jeremes Jet, had 16 starts in New Zealand for three wins and five placings. His eight wins and five placings in WA have boosted his record to 11 wins and ten placings from just 31 starts for earnings of $64,837.

Alta Christiano, favourite at 10/1 on, made a one-act affair of the first heat of the 2130mThe Stables Bar Pure Steel Pace when he had no trouble in setting the pace from barrier one and winning by five lengths from 66/1 outside Robbery, who finished strongly from three back on the pegs to snatch third place from 15/1 chance Lisharry, who had trailed the leader all the way.

After a slow lead time of 38.3sec. Alta Christiano dashed over the final quarters in 29.1sec., 28.8sec., 28.6sec. and 27.9sec. The 2013 WA Derby winner rated a slick 1.55.3 as he improved his WA record to seven wins and a third placing from eight starts. He has already amassed $286,164 from 11 wins and two placings from 16 starts.

"He was obviously the winner from the draw," Hall said. "We're using these races to get him really race fit. Just looking at him you can tell he's a long way off from being right. He is a gross sort of horse and he's tightening up with every run and he wants to do more every time he comes down here.

"He fought me a little bit tonight for the first half and punched out some solid sectionals while doing it. I was a little bit worried that he might get a bit tired with the condition he's got on him. But he was strong on the line."

Some Kinda Tactics, having his second start after a six-month absence, bounced back to top form with an impressive victory in the 2130m Paddington Ale House Pace. Starting from barrier three on the back line and equal favourite at 4/1 with polemarker Carters Rocket, Some Kinda Tactics was driven aggressively and confidently by 19-year-old Lauren Jones.

Jones sent the Dream Away six-year-old forward, with a fast three-wide burst after 700m and he quickly moved outside then pacemaker carters Rocket. Some Kinda Tactics forged to the front on the home turn and won easily from Carters Rocket and Anvils Big Punt, rating 1.59.6 after a final quarter of 28.5sec.

This ended a losing sequence of ten and a 12-month drought. "He had no luck first-up last week (when hampered for room and finishing ninth behind Little Boy Blue)," Jones said. "Down the back straight he was travelling and I knew that I had a whole lot of horse left."

Some Kinda Tactics, a winner of one race from four starts in New Zealand, has raced 30 times in WA for 11 wins and four placings.


Four-year-old Firebomb, impressive winner of the 2130m Gannon's Presentation Rugs Westbred Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night, is bred to be a success on the racetrack.

By former New Zealand champion Elsu, Firebomb's maternal granddam, the Victorian-bred Larrakeyah Lady won 11 races and $78,131 and then produced nine winners of 178 races.

The most notable of Larrakeyah Lady's winners were Safe And Sound, Gold Rocket and Massarua. Safe And Sound amassed $995,606 from 33 wins and 30m placings from 84 starts, Gold Rocket had 122 starts for 36 wins, 37 placings and $393,387 and Massarua was a veteran of 216 starts for 42 wins, 59 placings and $282,692.

Firebomb, trained at Mt Helena by Ray Williams, was a 15/2 chance from the outside of the back line and Ryan Warwick quickly manoeuvred him into sixth position in the one-wide line, with polemarker and 6/4 favourite Adda Notherzero setting the pace.

Ti Amo Franco raced in the breeze in the middle stages and he got to the front 250m from home. However, he was unable to withstand Firebomb's powerful finishing burst which carried him to the front 40m from the post. Firebomb won by a metre and rated 2.0.8 on the heavy track.

Firebomb looks set to improve considerably on his record of ten wins and nine placings from just 31 starts for earnings of $54,859.

by Ken Casellas


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