Padberg seeking second victory in Empress Stakes

08:52 PM 26 Feb 2014 NZDT
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Shannon Suvaljko with connections
John & Debbie Padberg - pictured with driver Shannon Suvaljko

Noted frontrunner Courage On Fire has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier in the $50,000 Community Newspaper Group Empress Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night to boost Wanneroo trainer Debbie Padberg's hopes of winning the group 2 feature event for mares for the second time.

She trained Glitzy Miss for her dramatic victory in the Empress Stakes in April 2008 when the five-year-old was tenth with 550m to travel and seventh at the 100m before flying home, out wide, to defeat the pacemaker Alkira Jet.

The New Zealand-bred Courage On Fire has won ten races in Australia, with five of those wins coming when she has set the pace --- over 1720m and 2125m at Penrith, over 1609m at Menangle and over 1730m and 2130m at Gloucester Park.

The Empress Stakes will be decided over 2536m and this should not seriously trouble Courage On Fire, who has raced four times over that distance at Gloucester Park for a fourth, a fifth, a second and a win (when she sat behind the pacemaker and ran on to win narrowly from Next Dawn and Chocolatto early last December).

Mrs Padberg is delighted with the favourable barrier and said that Courage On Fire was "very good" in front. The seven-year-old led and won easily from Aristocratic Glow over 2130m three starts ago before starting from the outside of the back line and finishing strongly to be third to Aristocratic Glow and Deluxe Edition. She was sixth at the bell and finished seventh behind Leda McNally in a 2130m prelude of the Empress Stakes last Friday night.

Mrs Padberg, who is in fourth place in the Metropolitan trainers' premiership table, said that she was undecided on what tactics reinsman Michael Tenardi would adopt. Much would depend on whether Courage On Fire was challenged strongly in the early stages.

Two speedy beginners are on the outside of Courage On Fire --- four-year-olds Askmenow (barrier two) and Kristen Louise (three). Askmenow has been unplaced at her past six starts and has a losing sequence of eight, but her trainer Gary Hall sen. said that if she was able to lead she would be very hard to beat.

Hall has a higher opinion of stablemate Famous Alchemist, who will start from the inside of the back line, immediately behind Courage On Fire. "It's a tricky draw, but she can certainly win," he said. Famous Alchemist has had only 38 starts for 12 wins and 13 placings.

Famous Alchemist charged home from last at the bell to finish third behind her stablemate Aussie Made Lombo in the Empress Stakes last March to give Hall his third success in the race which he first won with Moray Miss in 1991.

Vance Stampalia, who drove Glitzy Miss for her win in this race six years ago, is the regular driver of four-year-old Kristen Louise, who is prepared at Wanneroo by his sister Tonia. Stampalia stole a march on his rivals when he got Kristen Louise away to a flying start from the No. 5 barrier in the second prelude of the Empress Stakes last Friday night.

Kristen Louise charged to the front after 100m and was not extended in winning from Selkie and Ace of Cards. "She crossed them easily last week," he said. "And it would be nice to be able to lead again this week. Kristen Louise has improved since her win last week and is thriving on a preparation of mainly swimming in the pool."

Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri has cured speedy mare Sensational Gabby of her habit of overracing and he has sound prospects of winning the event for the third time, after scoring with Elysees Crest in 2010 and Ima Spicey Lombo the following year. Olivieri also trained Live High when she surged home from 11th at the 600m to finish second to Aussie Made Lombo last year.

Sensational Gabby raced without cover when second to Famous Alchemist over 1730m two starts ago before she started from the outside of the front line, was restrained to last and then sprinted fast after 700m to join the leader Leda McNally last Friday night when she fought on to finish second to that mare.

HALL SAYS NORTHVIEW PUNTER CAN OVERCOME BACK-LINE BARRIER

Leading trainer Gary Hall sen. was naturally disappointed when speedy New Zealand-bred four-year-old Northview Punter drew badly at barrier four on the back line in the $25,000 Fremantle Gazette The Lewis final at Gloucester Park on Friday night, but defiantly declared that all was not lost and that the horse was capable of overcoming this disadvantage and winning the 2130m event.

"It was a phenomenal run by Northview Punter when second to Hokonui Ben last week and he can win from the back line," said Hall, who will be in Sydney on Friday night keeping his eye on Livingontheinterest before that pacer contests the interdominion championship final at Menangle on Sunday.

Hall makes no secret that he considers that Northview Punter is far better suited to leading in his races than coming from behind. But he believes that the horse is gaining in experience and is capable of proving more versatile.

Northview Punter began with great dash from barrier three to set the pace in the 2536m RWWA Cup last Friday night and he fought on grandly when beaten by only a neck by the fast-finishing Hokonui Ben, rating 1.55.8 over the 2536m.

At his previous appearance, two weeks before last Friday night's run, Northview Punter worked hard for the first 500m before taking up the running and going on to win by more than two lengths from Pacific Warrior over 2130m.

A week later Pacific Warrior led from the No. 1 barrier and won easily from Mighty Flying Thomas and Uppy Son over 2130m. He will start from barrier five on the front line this week and looks set to fight out the finish.

The Matt Scott-trained Marooned has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier and even though the seven-year-old's best performances in Western Australia have been when he has produced a powerful finishing burst reinsman Chris Voak will be strongly tempted to attempt an all-the-way win. Marooned does possess good gate speed and has led and won at two of his 16 wins, over 1609m at Menangle and 2170m at Canberra.

Mohegan Sun (barrier two) and Menelaus of Sparta (three) have each won twice when leading all the way. But they are not noted frontrunners, and this could make it easier for Marooned to set the pace. Marooned was most impressive last Friday night when he started from the back line and trailed the pacemaker Mach Banner before flashing home with a sparkling late burst to finish a half-head second to Mach Banner.

TRUCKERS RUFFNUT WORKS WITH DASH BEFORE HIS CLASH WITH DAVID HERCULES

A sizzling final 800m in 56sec. in a track workout at Donaldson Park in Bunbury on Tuesday morning greatly impressed his trainer Murray Hansen, who is confident the eight-year-old can cause an upset and beat star performer David Hercules in the $21,000 Stirling Times Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

In the random draw, Truckers Ruffnut gained the prized No. 1 barrier, while David Hercules fared poorly and will start from the outside of the front line (No. 7) in the small field of eight.

"Our one big advantage over David Hercules is the barrier draw," Hansen said. "We've drawn one and will be utilising it and holding up to lead. Truckers Ruffnut has always possessed good gate speed and in previous campaigns was always a very hard horse to beat when he was in front.

"David Hercules will have to be right at the top of his game to beat Truckers Ruffnut. I feel sorry for David Hercules, with all the bad barriers he has been getting. I think that my horse can run a really good time."

Leading reinsman Gary Hall jun. will be reunited with Truckers Ruffnut after the horse has been driven at his first five starts after an injury-enforced absence of 39 months by Ryan Bell, Shane Butcher (three times) and Dylan- Egerton-Green.

Hall has an outstanding record with Truckers Ruffnut, having driven him 24 times for 11 wins, nine seconds, two thirds, one seventh and one eighth.

Truckers Ruffnut has finished strongly to win at two of his past three starts at Gloucester Park. He raced three back on the pegs in fifth position before charging home brilliantly to win from Danieljohn and Mighty Flying Thomas last Friday night.

Hansen drove Truckers Ruffnut in his workout on Tuesday morning when the horse was clocked over the 1200m trip in 3min. 5sec. and sprinted the final 800m in 56sec.

"He worked really well and I feel he is better than he was when he won last week. He does all his trackwork on his own and he works free-legged," Hansen said. "He's that good a pacer that he could race without hopples. He has run a half in 55sec. free-legged without putting a foot wrong."

Byford trainer David Thompson said that he was becoming resigned to receiving wide draws for David Hercules. But he was full of praise for the even-year-old's splendid third behind Hokonui Ben and Northview Punter in the 2536m RWWA Cup last Friday night.

David Hercules started from barrier seven and was restrained to the rear by Morgan Woodley before he dashed the gelding forward in the first lap to work hard outside then pacemaker Northview Punter. David Hercules fought on grandly to finish only a length behind Hokonui Ben.

An improver in Friday night's race appears certain to be the Ross Olivieri-trained Red Salute, who is sure to appreciate the favourable No. 2 barrier on the front line in the field of eight. Red Salute has been dogged by unfavourable draws in recent outings.

DON'T DISREGARD THE BEAU BRUMMELL, ADVISES MELLSOP

Waroona trainer-reinsman Bob Mellsop offered some sound advice to punters when he said that they should completely disregard The Beau Brummell's last-start seventh behind Earl Harbour at Gloucester Park last Saturday week when assessing the five-year-old's chances in the $30,000 Happy Birthday Alison Ward Discreet Romeo Sprint for trotters on Friday night.

"He met with severe interference soon after the start before making up a great deal of ground," Mellsop said. "He will start on the inside of the back line this week and should get a good run behind the polemarker Ushaka Bromac."

The Beau Brummell's form before his unlucky last-start effort was very good. His six previous starts, after resuming from a spell, produced two wins (including the WA Trotters Cup), two seconds, one third and one fifth placing.

Vance Stampalia, driver of the Bruce Stanley-trained Ushaka Bromac, and Gary Hall sen., trainer of Prince Eddie, are both confident of success.

Stampalia believes that Ushaka Bromac will have the early speed to lead from the No. 1 barrier in the 1730m event. She led early and then sat behind the pacemaker Idle Maple before finishing solidly to be a close second to Earl Harbour over 1730m last Saturday week.

Prince Eddie, whose past eight starts have produced four wins, one second and two thirds, looks nicely placed from the No. 2 barrier. He raced without cover when third to Earl Harbour at his latest start. He finished powerfully to win from Sandakan Lombo in a 2503m stand at his previous start.

by Ken Casellas

 

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