Day At The Track

Gloucester Park with Ken Casellas

04:32 PM 22 Sep 2013 NZST
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Elegant Christian & Clinton Hall El Machine
Elegant Christian & Clinton Hall
El Machine was a solidly-supported 7/4 favourite


Leading trainer Gary Hall sen. is excited at the wonderful potential of New Zealand-bred three-year-old Elegant Christian and is mapping out an ambitious program for the big, powerfully-built gelding, including the $200,000 New South Wales Derby in March and the $200,000 WA Derby the following month.

“If he keeps going well I’ll take him to Sydney next year when I travel over with Im Themightyquinn for the interdominion championship,” Hall said after Elegant Christian had scored an effortless victory in the Go Freo Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Elegant Christian, at unbackable odds of 25/1 on, gave Clint Hall an armchair drive as he set a brisk pace and romped to victory by three lengths over stablemate Eyre Crusher in a field of four. He sped over the final two 400m sections in 28.8sec. and 27.9sec. and rated an excellent 1.57 over the 2130m.

This took Elegant Christian’s record to four starts for four wins and earnings of $31,865 and he is proving a very good buy for his owners Karen Hall, Neven Botica, Garry Ralston, Glenn Moore, Mark Congerton, John Burt, Andrew Curran and Ross North.

Congerton purchased eight yearlings in New Zealand last year and paid $27,000 for Elegant Christian, who is by Christian Cullen and out of English Elegance, a mare by the American stallion Camtastic. He then offered shares in the yearlings to several of his friends.

Botica decided to buy a share in only Elegant Christian because he had unsuccessfully attempted to buy English Elegance about six or seven years ago as a breeding proposition.

Elegant Christian is the sixth foal out of English Elegance and Congerton bought Elegant Christian because he had been so impressed by Home Secretary, a full-brother to the youngster.

“I bought Home Secretary and he looked like being anything as a two-year-old,” Hall said. “He’s a real nice horse, but he kept breaking down. He was too big and got pushed too early (in New Zealand). He ran a 56sec. half in a trial as a two-year-old.”

Home Secretary has broken down twice with suspensory ligament problems and his future is extremely uncertain. He has had only three starts, finishing second to Kiss Chasey as a three-year-old at Pinjarra on debut in May 2011. He broke down and was out of action for 19 months before resuming with a second placing to Major Catastrophe at Gloucester Park in December 2012.

Then, a week later, Home Secretary won a 2185m race at Pinjarra by seven lengths after sprinting over the final two 400m sections in 28.2sec. and 26.7sec. He has not raced since.

“But there’s a cloud in every silver lining,” Hall said. “If I hadn’t had Home Secretary we wouldn’t have had Elegant Christian now.”

Elegant Christian’s brilliant victory completed a splendid night for Hall, who, earlier in the program had been successful with Chloe Vargarita, This Time Dylan and The Ragpickers Dream. Hall is so impressed by Elegant Christian that he has just paid $40,000 for his yearling brother Chevrons Delight.


Five-year-old Victorian-bred Leda McNally gave further convincing proof that she will be a leading contender in the rich feature events for mares in the summer months when she finished with a sizzling burst to win the $21,000 Ross North Group Spring Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Pinjarra trainer Chris King is setting Leda McNally for the Nepean Conveyors Classic for mares at Gloucester Park in December and is hoping she will maintain her brilliant form and will be able to contest the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup.

Leda McNally, the only mare in Friday night’s event and third favourite at 13/2, started from the inside of the back line and Chris Voak had her travelling smoothly three back on the pegs before she flashed home to get up and defeat the pacemaker and 5/4 on favourite Sneakyn Down Under by a half-length, rating 1.54 over 1730m after the final 800m was covered in 56.5sec.

Owned by Victorian Greg Stubbs, Leda McNally managed one win from 15 Victorian starts before being sent to WA to be prepared by King. She now has raced 24 times in this State for 14 wins and five placings and her earnings stand at $151,088.

Sneakyn Down Under, driven for the first time by Brad Stampalia (in the absence of the 11-year-old’s part-owner and trainer Darren Duffy, who is serving a term of suspension from driving), burst straight to the front from the No. 2 barrier and he sped through the first quarter of the final mile in 28.9sec. before coasting through the next section in 29.3sec.

However, Sneakyn Down Under began to show signs of weakening in the home straight before Leda McNally charged to the front about 20m from the post. This was Leda McNally’s fourth win from seven starts in her current campaign.

Leda McNally is showing no signs of the injuries she suffered when she took fright during an electrical storm at King’s property last March when she bolted and burst through a couple of fences, suffering severe lacerations to her legs and damage to hooves. Fortunately, King was able to catch the mare and this prevented further injuries.


Young trainer-reinsmen Kade Howson and Michael George were enjoying a couple of refreshing beers at the Gloucester Standardbred yearling sale in 2010 when they decided, on a whim, to outlay $5000 for lot 32, a small colt by former star pacer Elsu.

The colt is now a five-year-old gelding by the name of El Machine, who is proving a wonderful bargain.

The 25-year-old Howson trains El Machine at Pinjarra and he drove him to an impressive victory in the 2130m TABtouch Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night to take his record to 37 starts for 13 wins, 12 placings and $96,205 in prizemoney.

“El Machine is a brother of In A Fashion, a horse I liked, so we bought the colt even though he was not much to look at,” Howson said.

In A Fashion raced 78 times for 12 wins, 14 placings and stakes of $77,858 and a half-brother Parsons Clothes managed four wins from 75 starts for earnings of $30,014. El Machine and his brothers are out of Fashion Statement, a mare by Life Sign, who earned just $6290 from a win at Kalgoorlie and two at Geraldton in a 22-start career. El Machine is also related to Little Town Blues, who earned $104,066 from 13 wins and 18 placings from 62 starts.

As a three-year-old El Machine finished second to the brilliant Gracias Para Nada in the Sales Classic and he won a prelude of the WA Derby. He gives every indication of being able to continue on his winning ways.

El Machine was a solidly-supported 7/4 favourite on Friday night when Howson restrained him from barrier six to the rear before sending him forward, three wide, after a lap. He then was able to follow the three-wide run of Lord Diego and was sixth at the bell before surging to the front 250m from home.

He raced away to score by three lengths from 15/4 second fancy Rojen Cruz, with a head to the pacemaker Boy O Boy, rating 1.58 after covering the final 800m in 57.2sec.


Memories of former champion pacer and equine millionaire Divisive were rekindled when New South Wales-bred mare Chloe Vargarita stormed home to win the 2130m Ross North Complete Homes Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Chloe Vargarita is the first foal out of Badlands Hanover mare Susie O’Neill, an elder half-sister to Divisive, who won the Victoria Derby at Moonee Valley, the NSW Derby at Harold Park and Australian Derby in Launceston in 2006 and the Miracle Mile at Harold Park in November 2008.

Divisive then came to Perth when he made two appearances at Gloucester Park in January 2009, finishing second to Power of Tara in the Fremantle Cup and a nose second to Mysta Magical Mach in the WA Pacing Cup.

Susie O’Neill was a handy performer who retired with a record of 11 wins and 14 placings from 52 starts for stakes of $61,179.

Chloe Vargarita is owned by a Victorian syndicate headed by Andrew Grover. She was prepared by outstanding Victorian reinsman Daniel Jack who recently decided to send her to WA to be trained by Gary Hall sen. in a bid to win a city race or two before being retired to the stud later this year.

Chloe Vargarita had eight starts in Victoria for three wins, nine starts in NSW for two wins and eight starts in Tasmania for three wins. Her first three starts for Hall have produced a win, a second and a third. She has earned $48,454 from nine wins and five placings from 29 starts.

Chloe Vargarita started from the inside of the back line on Friday night and was a solidly-supported 11/8 favourite. Gary Hall jun. settled her down behind the polemarker and pacemaker Grin On The Beach before he cleverly angled her off the pegs about 870m from home. Chloe Vargarita was forced four wide just before the turn out of the back straight and she produced a powerful finishing burst to hit the front 90m from the post. After a moderate early pace, the final 800m whizzed by in 57sec. And Chloe Vargarita rated a modest 2.0.6.


Lightly-raced New Zealand-bred eight-year-old Banana Dana is the latest pacer to make the most of the drop-down regulation. He was recently reclassified from an M3-class performer to an M2 classification.

This downgrade (granted to horses graded M2 or better after completing a losing sequence of ten) enabled him to start in the Ross North Signature Range Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and he received an additional bonus when he drew the prized No. 1 barrier.

Part-owner and trainer Darren Duffy is serving a term of suspension and he handed the reins to Brad Stampalia, who had driven Banana Dana at his first two starts as a two-year-old at Gloucester Park in June and July 2008 when he won on debut before finishing a close second to Aussie Reactor.

The drop-down regulation certainly proved a tremendous bonus for Banana Dana, particularly considering that before he completed a losing sequence of ten he had won five races in a row for $45,870 in prizemoney. The Courage Under Fire gelding now has earned $126,089 from 13 wins and 13 placings from 52 starts.

An indication of Banana Dana’s ability can been gleaned from the fact his previous win before Friday night was in the 2012 Media Guild Cup when he defeated class performers Can Return Fire, Sneakyn Down Under and Mysta Magical Mach.

Stampalia had no difficulty in jumping Banana Dana, hot favourite at 10/9, straight to the front and he rated the gelding perfectly, with Old McDonald (7/1) working hard in the breeze, Sir Swanky (11/2) trailing the pacemaker and Wrongly Accused (22/1) in the one-out, one-back position.

After a third quarter of the final mile in 29.4sec., Banana Dana sped over the final section in 28.7sec. and won comfortably by 2m from Wrongly Accused, with Sir Swanky a close-up third.


Part-time Middle Swan trainer Clinton Pearce landed his first Metropolitan-class winner when 52/1 tote outsider Demon Possessed gave a bold frontrunning performance to dead-heat with the fast-finishing This Time Dylan in the 2503m Download Complete Homes App Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Demon Possessed, a five-year-old Life Sign gelding, stole a march on his rivals when Jamie Rigoli got him away brilliantly from the outside (barrier four) on the front line in the stand.

Demon Possessed bowled along in front and he fought on grandly to cross the line locked together with This Time Dylan, an 9/2 chance off the 10m line, who was 11th in the middle stages and then followed the three-wide burst of 7/2 favourite False Promise before putting in a desperate lunge right on the line.

The photo finish equipment malfunctioned and there was considerable conjecture over which horse had won. Finally, after the judges, relying on their vision and watching the video tape of the finish, declared a head-heat. Polemarker Ya Dreamin (11/1) was third after trailing the leader all the way. Braemoor, who started off 20m, finished strongly to be fourth, with False Promise in fifth place.

Demon Possessed, a winner at Northam in June and at Kellerberrin in August, is raced on lease from Frank Bratovich by the 29-year-old Pearce, a finance broker, his wife Danielle, father Ross, brother Travis and P. W. Cheater.

Clinton Pearce trained his first winner at Gloucester Park 11 days earlier when Rigoli was successful with 10/1 chance Spoilt Rich in a country-class event.

Demon Possessed has now earned $20,419 from five wins and two placings from 36 starts. He is a half-brother to Adayspay (83 starts for 19 wins, 18m placings and $134,594) and Country Change (41 starts for 11 wins, ten placings and $95,383).

This Time Dylan, trained by Gary Hall sen. and driven by his son Gary, has had 26b starts for seven wins, five placings and $43,515. He has had 18 starts in WA for four wins and two placings.


Consistent six-year-old Sparkling Seelster broke through for a long overdue win when Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice brought him home with a spirited burst to score an easy victory in the third heat of the 2130m Ross North Complete Home And Land Packages Westbred Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Sparkling Seelster, a 9/1 chance, started from the outside of the back line and he settled at the rear before Prentice started a three-wide move approaching the bell. Polemarker and 2/1 favourite Luck Has It was setting the pace, with Levi Judd and then Cheeryrose in the breeze.

Sparkling Seelster was eighth at the bell and he sustained a strong three-wide burst to hit the front 100m from the post. He drew away to score by 5m from Ballas Arockstar, with Moonlight Rockhole running home fast to be third.

The win ended a losing sequence of 22 for Sparkling Seelster, with those 22 starts yielding five seconds and four thirds. He now has earned $50,182 from eight wins and 13 placings from 50 starts.

He won at each of his first four starts, three at Bunbury and one at Harvey, and also was successful at his Gloucester Park debut. His dam Sally Anna had 17 starts in WA for seven wins in 2001-02 before being retired with a record of ten wins, 15 placings and stakes of $59,428 from just 37 starts.


Asian Courage, unplaced at his eight starts since winning at Pinjarra in May, bounced back to form with a splendid victory in the 2130m Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

His fast-finishing win by a half-length over Franco Nasser gave 25-year-old Pinjarra horseman Kade Howson the second leg of a training and driving double. Howson had started the program with El Machine’s win in the opening event.

Asian Courage started from barrier four on the back line and was an 11/1 chance in an event in which the polemarker Glow Bright was a surprisingly short-priced favourite at 10/9.

Glow Bright set the pace for Brian Kersley while Howson bided his time in tenth position before starting a three-wide move, with cover, approaching the bell. Give Us A Hand moved on terms with Glow Bright 550m from home after working hard in the breeze. But he wilted badly top finish last Asian Courage sustained his strong effort to get to the front in the final stages and win from 10/1 chance Franco Nasser, who finished determinedly. Glow Bright held on to be a nose away in third place.

Asian Courage, a New Zealand-bred seven-year-old by Courage Under Fire, took his earnings to $36,943 from five wins and 11 placings from 38 starts.


Former Victorian performer The Ragpickers Dream made an impressive West Australian debut when he stormed home to snatch victory in the third heat of the Developwest The Warwick Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Having his first start since mid-April, the New Zealand-bred six-year-old started from the back line and was third favourite at 6/1, with the polemarker The Pacing Priest hot favourite at 10/9 and Copagrin second fancy at 13/4.

Gary Hall jun. quickly had The Ragpickers Dream in an ideal position, one-out and two-back, following Copagrin. And when Darren Kerr sent Copagrin forward approaching the bell, Hall followed that horse’s three-wide run.

The Ragpickers Dream finished too strongly for his rivals, bursting to the front in the final 90m and winning by a neck from The Pacing Priest, with North Toa Luckstar a head away in third place after trailing the leader throughout. Copagrin was a close fourth. The final 800m was covered in 57.2sec. and The Ragpickers Dream rated 1.59.5 over the 2130mn journey.

The Ragpickers Dream, trained by Gary Hall sen., was unplaced at two starts as a two-year-old in New Zealand in March 2010. Then he made a terrific start to his career in Victoria where his first 15 starts produced ten wins and four placings.

He was claimed when he won a claiming event at Melton last January and his new owners, led by Matt Leppard, sent him to be trained at Mildura. But he was not comfortable racing on the Mildura track and Leppard then offered him to Hall, the trainer of his promising four-year-old mare Korobeit Angel.

The Ragpickers Dream is a full-brother to Dream Guest, who raced in WA in 2010-11 when his 12 starts in the State produced three wins and two placings. Dream Guest has earned $87,986 from 12 wins and 15 placings from 88 starts. The Ragpickers Dream has earned $90,018 from 13 wins and nine placings from 41 starts.


New Zealand-bred eight-year-old Shez El De Rosa made the most of the prized No. 1 barrier when Shannon Suvaljko drove her to an easy all-the-way victory in the 2130m Download Ross North Homes App Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. This broke a losing sequence of 12.

Trained at Wanneroo by Debbie Padberg, Shez El De Rosa was a firm 5/4 on favourite and her supporters were on good terms with themselves when Suvaljko guided her through the first two 400m sections of the final mile in 32.5sec. and 30.2sec.

Suvaljko increased the tempo with a 28.7sec. third quarter before the mare strolled over the final section in 29.3sec. to win by a length and a half from Zamaye at a modest 2.1.1 rate. Here For The Money battled on to be third after trailing the leader all the way.

Shez El De Rosa had 14 starts in New Zealand for three wins and five placings before winning three races at Penrith in New South Wales before arriving in Western Australia where she has had 20 starts for Padberg for two wins and four placings.

Shez El De Rosa has now earned $57,088 from eight wins and 13 placings from 66 starts.

by Ken Casellas


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