Champion harness racing driver Chris Lewis will be reunited with exciting young pacer Grinjaro for the first time for more than two years when he drives the horse in the $20,500 Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Lewis will replace Gary Hall jun., who is serving a 19-day term of suspension and Grinjaro’s clash with seasoned veterans and equine millionaires Has The Answers, Mysta Magical Mach and, as well as sprightly eight-year-old Rocket Reign, will add considerable spice to the ten-event program.
Octogenarian owner-trainer Ken White produced Grinjaro in top shape at Gloucester Park last Friday night for his first outing for 14 weeks and Hall brought the five-year-old home with a powerful burst from seventh at the bell to win from Elite Under Fire and Franco Renegade.
There is no doubt that Grinjaro faces far tougher opposition in this week’s 2100m event. But he should be improved after his first-up effort and is capable of beating his better-credentialled rivals. He will start from barrier four, with Has The Answers (five), Rocket Reign (six) and Mysta Magical Mach (seven) on his outside and withthe solitary runner off the back line.
Has The Answers (Mark Reed) looks certain to burst to an early lead, but he has been disappointing at his past two starts when setting the pace and wilting to third behind Mysta Magical Mach and Please Release Me over 2100m and to third behind Please Release Me and Mysta Magical Mach over 1700m.
Has The Answers does not have as much speed on his inside this week as he has had at his past two starts and there is a strong possibility that Reed will be able to dash him straight into the lead. If that transpires, then he is sure to prove hard to catch.
Shannon Suvaljko, who drove Mysta Magical Mach when he raced without cover in the middle stages, took the lead 250m from home and faded to finish second to Please Release Me last Friday night, will handle his own nomination Rocket Reign, whose form in top-class company has been very good over the past two months, after winning three in a row in December and January.
Morgan Woodley will resume after a 12-day suspension and will again be in the sulky behind Mysta Magical Mach, who again looks likely to be the horse doing all the work in the breeze.
Lewis drove Grinjaro as a two and three-year-old when he handled the pacer at 15 of his first 17 starts for five wins and three placings. He last drove Grinjaro at Gloucester Park on February 26, 2010 for a fourth placing behind Lombo Navigator. Since then Grinjaro has had 34 starts when driven by seven different reinsmen. In that period Hall was successful nine times and Suvaljko and Colin Brown once each.
FAST-FINISHING FRANCO RENEGADE HAS THE CREDENTIALS
Few pacers in Western Australia possess a powerful finishing burst to rival that of Franco Renegade, and this wonderful attribute should help the New Zealand-bred gelding to overcome the outside barrier on the front line and win The West Australian $35,000 Triple Crown final for four and five-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Franco Renegade, a winner of 16 races, has graduated to an M6 mark and has reached a far higher assessment than any of his 11 rivals, with four-year-old Ohokas Bondy on an M3 mark, five-year-old Gday Mate on an M2 mark and all other runners on an M0 or M1 classification.
And to strengthen his claims, Franco Renegade ran an outstanding trial for this event with a superb effort to finish a 2m third behind Grinjaro over 2100m last Friday night.
Franco Renegade, part-owned and trained by Aldo Cortopassi and driven by Kyle Harper, started from the outside of the back line and was 12th and last at the bell when he started a three-wide run. He charged home out wide on the track.
Once again, Harper is certain to restrain Franco Renegade from his wide barrier to a position at the rear of the field of 12 before setting sail after his rivals with just over a lap to travel.
Franco Renegade, one of ten New Zealand-bred pacers in the field, is sure to meet stiff opposition and he will need to be at his peak to emerge triumphant.
Forrestdale trainers Greg and Skye Bond hold a strong hand with four runners, brilliant last-start winner Ohokas Bondy, Borat, Nimrod and Eliminator, all of whom are capable of a strong forward showing.
Ohokas Bondy stands out as the best of the quartet. He chalked up his 21st victory from 41 starts and boosted his earnings to $355,698 when he worked hard in the breeze before sprinting the final 800m in 55.7sec. to score an easy victory over 1670m at a 1.53.6 rate at Pinjarra three Mondays ago. He will start from the No. 4 barrier on the back line.
Uppy Son, trained at Bunbury by Stephen Reed, is improving in leaps and bounds and he impressed when he led and won by just under three lengths from Dundee Three at Gloucester Park last Friday night. That was his fifth win from his past nine starts and his 13th from only 34 starts. He will start from barrier two on the back line.
Morgan Woodley will drive Hustlers Crown for Byford trainer Peter Tilbrook, and from barrier four off the front thefive-year-old makes good appeal after strong frontrunning displays to win at each of his two past starts.
Leading trainer Gary Hall sen. will be represented by the steadily improving four-year-old Heavens Delight, who is ideally drawn at No. 2 off the front. His seven starts this season have produced four wins and two placings.
Boyanup trainer Kim Prentice will be represented by Racketeers Girl and Gday Mate, with the latter making the stronger appeal. He can unwind a spirited finishing burst.
SPEEDY ROCKY POP LOOKS THE GOODS FROM No. 2 BARRIER
Rocky Pop, a half-brother to former top-flight young pacer Truckers Ruffnut, looks a star bet in the SEW Eurodrive Western Crown Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
His prospects sky rocketed when he drew barrier No. 2 on the front line of the 1700m event.
He made a highly-impressive debut at Pinjarra three Mondays ago when he started from barrier four, dashed to the front after 250m, sprinted over the first 400m section in 28sec. and dashed over the final 800m in 58.3sec. to win by seven lengths from Indomitable at a 1.57.3 rate.
Since then he has changed stables and is now being prepared at Byford by Peter Tilbrook. Thegelding will again be driven by Kyle Harper.
Rocky Pop’s half-brother Truckers Ruffnut (by Parsons Den) has earned $221,420 from 18 wins and 14 placings from 47 starts.
Rocky Pop is one of threepacers in the field. The others are Smokey The Bandit and As Tough As Steel. Two of the other runners, Big Ben Lombo and Lord Platinum, are by former champion pacer and a son of in , who will match strides against Has The Answers, Mysta Magical Mach and Grinjaro in an earlier event on Friday night’s program.
Smokey The Bandit and As Tough As Steel each won at his debut, Big Ben Lombo led and won at his only start, at Pinjarra on January 30, and Lord Platinum has had two starts for seconds to Smokey The Bandit and As Tough As Steel.
The other winner in the race is the Colin Reeves-traineds, who raced without cover early and then set the pace before scoring easily from Devastating Power and As Tough As Steel at Pinjarra last Monday week.
Big Ben Lombo warmed up for the race with a smart trial win at Pinjarra last Sunday. He was driven by his trainer Ray Grantham and worked hard in the breeze before beating the pacemaker Stellas Starzzz by a head at a 2.1.1 rate over 1670m. It was a sound effort and gelding cannot be underestimated, even from the outside of the back line.
MORRISON AND REID FANCIED WITH INDOMITABLE
Saab filly Intomitable has a stranglehold on the Veolia Environmental Services Western Crown Classic for two-year-old fillies at Gloucester Park on Friday night after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier.
Trained at Wanneroo by Barry Morrison, Indomitable should give Wayne Reid an armchair drive. She possesses excellent natural speed and is a smart frontrunner who should prove too speedy for her nine rivals.
Indomitable has had three starts for two all-the-way wins (at Harvey and Northam) and an excellent second to talented gelding Rocky Pop at Pinjarra when she started from the outside of the front line before finishing solidly from fifth at the bell.
Bunbury trainer Frank Bonnett has high hopes that hisfilly Adda Rising Star will continue her improvement and cause an upset by beating Indomitable.
Adda Rising Star is unbeaten at her two appearances, both over 1609m at Bunbury. She raced greenly before beating Karadan Kid in 2.5.4 and then worked hard without cover and dashed over the final 800m in 57.6sec. to score narrowly from Myheidi in 2.2.6.
However, Adda Rising Star will need all the breaks from the outside of the back line.
Bunbury trainer John Graham will be represented byfilly Miss Hollywood, who impressed when she led from barrier one and won easily from recon Patrol over 1750m at Harvey on Thursday of last week at a 2.1.4 rate. Miss Hollywood is out of former star juvenile Mitemptation.
Miss Hollywood will be driven by Chris Lewis, who drove Mitemptation in all but the first of her 18 starts which produced 11 wins and five placings for stakes of $123,390. Mitemptation was unbeaten in her eight starts as a two-year-old which included the 1995 Pearl Classic and State Sires Series final.
FATHER-SON CLASH SHOULD PRODUCE SOME FIREWORKS
A classic battle is looming between father and son at Gloucester Park on Friday night when Is She Talking renews her rivalry with Im Hey Jude in the 2100m Nova 93.7 Pace for three-year-old fillies.
Boyanup horseman Kim Prentice will replace the suspended Gary Hall jun. behind Is She Talking, who set the pace and won from Im Hey Jude at her debut at Gloucester Park last Friday week.
Prentice’s son Justin trains and drives Im Hey Jude, who again looms as a serious threat to Is She Talking, afilly trained at Hazelmere by Gary Hall sen.
The inexperienced but richly talented Is She Talking is sure to start favourite after drawing ideally at barrier two on the front line, with Im Hey Jude at No. 4. Is She Talking led from barrier one, leaving Im Hey Jude to work hard in the breeze after starting from the No. 2 barrier last Friday week.
Is She Talking gave a sample of her class at her debut when she sprinted the final 800m in a slick 57.1sec. Im Hey Jude lost few admirers in finishing second to Is She Talking when she was making her Australian debut and having her first start for five months.
The Prentice family also is sure to be prominent in the Find Thirty Every Day Pace in which El Padrino (Kim Prentice) and Son of Fergie (Justin Prentice) look set to fight out the finish with Omegarama, Greyhawk and The Feather Foot.
Discerning punters will rally to support Omegarama, who comes into the M0 to M2-class event on extremely favourable terms against all his rivals. Omegarama was classified as an M4-class pacer two weeks ago and is now eligible to contest the Find Thirty Every Day Pace because he has received a highly-beneficial drop in class after extending his losing sequence to ten and because Bickley trainer Peter Anderson has engaged Chris Butt to make use of his claim as a junior driver.
This was the second drop-down awarded to Omegarama (after a previous losing run of ten) and under the long-standing previous rules (before they were altered last year) Omegarama would now be classified as an M5-class performer.
Omegarama, who is capable of unwinding a powerful finishing burst, will start from the outside of the front line. His chief rivals and three of the four M2-class pacers in the field (which contains three M0 pacers and four M1 horses) are El Padrino, Son of Fergie and Greyhawk, who will start from the back line.
Butt will be aiming to maintain his perfect record behind Omegarama. The only time he has driven the seven-year-old was at Gloucester park last October when he brought the gelding home with a withering burst from eighth on the home turn to get up and snatch victory from Xupan Three and My Jasami.
by Ken CASELLAS
Grinjaro's last start win at Gloucester Park on March 16, 2012: