Day At The Track

Condrieu gets his chance to atone

11:02 AM 23 Jul 2014 NZST
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Condrieu 1.png Greg Bond with his co
Condrieu - pictured winning at Gloucester Park
Greg Bond with his co - training wife, Skye.

Talented four-year-old Condrieu has resumed after a spell in sparkling form and Forrestdale trainers Greg and Skye Bond have high hopes that he will make amends for his narrow defeat in the 2013 John Higgins Memorial by winning the $35,000 group three event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Ryan Warwick has driven the New Zealand-bred gelding assertively for decisive victories at his first two starts after a spell and he is racing with such zest that he is capable of overcoming the distinct disadvantage of starting from the outside (barrier seven) on the front line in the 2130m feature event.

Condrieu possesses dazzling gate speed and it would come as no surprise if Warwick takes advantage of that wonderful asset by dashing the gelding forward in an attempt to burst to an early lead.

Condrieu reappeared after a four-month absence at Pinjarra last Monday week when he began from the back line and settled in seventh position before Warwick dashed him forward, three wide, after 300m to take the lead 250m later. Condrieu relished his pacemaking role and revelled in the heavy conditions as he sped over the final two quarters in 2u8.1sec. and 27.6sec. to win by two lengths from In The Perfect Storm.

Then in a 2536m event at Gloucester Park last Friday night Condrieu started from barrier six on the front line and raced four wide for the first 350m before bursting to the front. He relaxed and meandered through the first 400m section of the final mile in 33.3sec. before he coasted through the next quarter in 31.3sec. He gave his rivals little hope by sprinting over the final sections in 28.7sec. and 28.4sec. and winning easily from stablemate Jays Bee Grin.

Twelve months ago Condrieu was the only three-year-old in the Higgins Memorial and he was favourite at 5/4 on when he began speedily from barrier three and was in front after 120m. After easy opening sections of the final mile in 31.2sec. and 31.1sec. Condrieu sped over the final 800m in 57.7sec. and was overhauled in the final stride by the fast-finishing Pacific Warrior, who gained the verdict by a nose.

Greg Bond has an excellent record in the Higgins Memorial, winning with Money Magnet in 2004 and Richard Henry the following year. Richard Henry, a 7/2 chance, started out wide at barrier six and raced in the breeze before getting up in the final stride to defeat the pacemaker Bank The Money by a nose.

Colin Brown, who was successful with Money Magnet and Richard Henry, will drive Lunar Tide for the Bonds in Friday night's feature. Lunar Tide, favourably drawn at No. 2 on the front line, is sure to be prominent. He raced wide early and then without cover when fourth behind Condrieu at Gloucester Park last Saturday night.

Before that Lunar Tide had worked hard before winning first-up at Narrogin and then he covered a lot of extra ground before finishing second to Jasper Freeway at the same track.

The Bonds will also be represented in this week's race by Galactic Galleon, who will start from No. 4 on the back line and will be handled by Morgan Woodley. Galactic Galleon finished strongly when a head second to Erskine Range at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon.

Condrieu is overdue for a change of luck in a feature event. He has contested seven group races in his 23 starts in Western Australia for three minor placings last year --- second to Chilli Power in the group 1 McInerney Ford Classic, second in the Higgins Memorial and third in the group 3 Caduceus Club Classic.

His dam Oaxaca Lass won three group 1 events (the Queensland derby at Albion Park and the Australian Oaks at Moonee Valley in 2002 and the Chariots of Fire at Harold Park in 2003. She also won three group 2 features and was placed in four other group events.

Looming as the main dangers to Condrieu are polemarker In The Perfect Storm, Jasper Freeway, Wynberg Terror and Shnappy.

In The Perfect Storm, trained at Pinjarra by Michael Brennan, resumed after a five-month absence when he started from barrier three and led early before taking the trail behind Condrieu and then finishing doggedly along the sprint lane to be second to that pacer at Pinjarra last Monday week.

"His first-up run was good," said reinsman Gary Hall jun. "We've got the speed to hold up, but I'll wait to see what Mouse (Brennan) says. Hall won the Higgins Memorial in 2010 when he guided Partywiththedevil (barrier two) to an all-the-way victory over Son of Fergie and Lombo Navigator.

Northview Punter ready to fire

Up-and-coming star Northview Punter is working in grand style and champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. is confident the four-year-old will make a successful return to racing by proving the master of outstanding pacer David Hercules in the 2130m Yes Loans Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

"He has come back (from a spell) pretty well and he should work to the front and prove hard to beat," said Hall, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday on Saturday.

"I think he can beat David Hercules. He loves leading and he's a hard horse to get to."

However, Hall has great respect for David Hercules, saying: "I wouldn't be surprised if he sat outside Northview Punter and beat him."

Northview Punter, the youngest and least experienced runner in the race, has not appeared since he raced in the one-out, one-back position before finishing strongly to win the $35,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Championship from stablemate Soho Valencia at Gloucester Park on March 21. That was his 18th win from only 38 starts.

Hall was flying back from Brisbane on Sunday morning after driving Im Themightyquinn to a thrilling victory in the group 1 Blacks A Fake Championship at Albion Park on Saturday night when his brother Clint drove Northview Punter in a trial at Byford.

Northview Punter impressed when he set the pace and beat David Hercules by just over a length in the 2150m trial, rating a sizzling 1.55.6. "From all reports he went super at the trials," said Hall jun. "He is showing that he is improving all the time."

Northview Punter has drawn to lead from the No. 3 barrier, and this should prove an important advantage over David Hercules, who will start from barrier five.

Clint Hall said that Northview Punter had been lazy in the trial and that he required constant urging. However, he said that drawing inside of David Hercules should give him an edge over his classy rival.

Morgan Woodley, who has driven the David Thompson-trained David Hercules to dashing and decisive wins at his first two starts after a spell, conceded that the barrier draw would make life tough for his horse.

"The one horse I wanted to draw inside was Northview Punter," he said. "Northview Punter went fast in Sunday's trial and he rated a fast 1.55.6, which is low flying. However, David Hercules did a tremendous job. He sat last in the four-horse trial and he made good ground and finished at the winner's wheel.

"You definitely can't take anything away from his performance. However, I would love it if the barrier draws were reversed on Friday night. Probably, realistically, we'll end up in the breeze because we can't afford to spot Northview Punter a big start.

"If we go back at the start Northview Punter would be able to waltz to an easy lead. So if we were to give him three of four lengths at the 1000m mark it would make our job near on impossible. So I'd say we'll look to get up outside him and try to turn it into a staying competition.

"I expect it to be a fast-run race and the Halls will assess David Hercules as the hardest opposition, and they are likely to drive in a manner which will make it difficult for David Hercules to win. We expect a real hard tussle."

Hall sticks with Soho Lennon

Star reinsman Gary Hall jun. drove Crusader Banner to an effortless first-up victory at Northam on Tuesday night, but he has elected to handle stablemate Soho Lennon in the 2130m Slater Gartrell Sports Pace for three-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Crusader Banner and Soho Lennon are two of champion trainer Gary Hall senior's five runners in Friday's event, the others being Eliseos Falcon, Themightynadal and High Courage, and Hall junior's decision to drive Soho Lennon comes as an important guide to punters.

Soho Lennon, driven by Hall jun., overcame the disadvantage of starting from the outside of the back line when he raced wide in the middle stages before finishing powerfully to win by a length from the pacemaker Local Rogue at a 1.58.4 rate in a 2536m Pathway Pace last Friday night.

Again, Soho Lennon is not ideally drawn at No. 3 on the back line in Friday night's race in which Crusader Banner is much better drawn at No. 3 on the front line.

"I'll drive Soho Lennon and will be putting him in the race at some stage," said Hall jun. "I think he can win. Black Mr Mach is obviously improving and he's probably the danger from the draw."

Black Mr Mach, to be driven by Colin Brown for trainers Greg and Skye Bond, has excellent prospects from the coveted No. 1 barrier. He has won at his past two starts, running on to beat Tarsao at Gloucester Park and then setting the pace and winning narrowly from Ima Tragedy over 2185m at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon.

Crusader Banner was having his first start for 12 months when he gave a sparkling frontrunning display to score an easy victory from Your Excused, rating 1.59.1 over 2190m at Northam on Tuesday night.

"He's still very green and very much a baby in the head," said Hall jun. "He pulled a little bit and did a few things you'd expect from a two-year-old. But he hasn't had much racing. He's had a lot of time off with a damaged ligament in his shoulder.

"His best asset is his speed and he's probably best sat up. But while he's going through the grades he will race in front if the lead is there for him."

Eliseos Falcon, a former Victorian pacer, made an impressive WA debut when he produced a strong finishing burst to win from Machs A Pearler over 2185m at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon. It was his seventh win from 19 starts.

Slick Chapel to lead all the way

Noted frontrunner Slick Chapel will be a short-priced favourite for the $25,000 City Livestock The Chandon final over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier.

He is one of four runners in the race prepared by Gary Hall sen. and when he drew the inside barrier Gary Hall jun. had no hesitation in opting to drive him in preference to last-start winners Rowchester and Heez Orl Black and Notabadexcuse, a winner two starts ago.

"Slick Chapel is probably the best of our runners and he's drawn the best," said Hall jun. "It's a good draw for more than one reason. He's got the lead and has Dynamite Dude drawn behind him. So I should be able to control the result and I won't be letting Dynamite Dude out."

Dynamite Dude, trained by Ross Olivieri and to be driven by Chris Lewis, will start from the inside of the back line and will need plenty of luck to get a chance to beat Slick Chapel.

Dynamite Dude won at his first five starts in Western Australia before he started from barrier four ion the back line and raced three wide for much of the way when a fighting fourth behind Condrieu at Pinjarra last Monday week.

Slick Chapel has had 32 starts for ten wins and ten placings. He was an all-the-way winner two starts ago and then started from the back line and raced without cover for most of the way before winning from Soho Monza last Friday week.

The No. 1 barrier also will greatly enhance the prospects of Miss Atomic in the $40,000 McInerney Ford Pace for mares. A winner at ten of her 23 starts, she should be able to hold up and set the pace for Chris Lewis.

Speedy My Lady of the Night was a smart all-the-way winner over 1730m last Friday night, but though she is blessed with sparkling gate speed it is problematic whether she will be able to cross Miss Atomic. Lucky Joy, a brilliant winner at Gloucester Park last Saturday night, will start from barrier three on the back line and is capable of a bold showing.

by Ken Casellas

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