Outstanding young harness racing driver Michael George landed his first Group 1 winner when he rated 5/1 chance Seel N Print perfectly in front to score a convincing victory in the $200,000 Sky Racing WA Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The New Zealand-bred gelding's win over Shipwreck (13/2) and Lovers Delight (7/2) gave trainer Greg Bond his third success in the classic after victories with Richard Henry in 2005 and In the Force in 2009.
"It's unbelievable," said a jubilant George, the 22-year-old stable foreman at Bond's Forrestdale establishment. "When he drew barrier two we thought he could lead, and everything has worked out to plan."
However, George had a few anxious moments before the race when Seel N Print was in a fiery mood during his preliminary. "When I went to dash him up in the prelim he went to kick me out of the cart, so I thought I'd better not get into him too much. It didn't matter because he came out of the gate really well."
While Bond was ecstatic with the victory, he was disappointed that stable star Ohokas Bondy, the easing favourite from 5/4 to 2/1, wilted after working hard outside the pacemaker and dropped back to finish sixth.
George was engaged for Seel N Print when the Bond stable's No. 1 driver Colin Brown elected to handle Ohokas Bondy, who had chalked up 13 wins from 13 starts since arriving in WA from New Zealand.
"It was probably a toss of the coin decision for Colin, but he stuck with Ohokas Bondy," Bond said. "He knows the horse and his ability and he stuck with him. This created an opportunity for Michael.
"We really felt that from the barrier draw and leading that Seel N Print was going to give it a very good sight. The horse has been a revelation since he joined us. He was a very cheap purchase and he's done a super job,"
Seel N Print, a gelding by, won has won at four of his five WA starts, earning $152,390. He had seven starts in New Zealand for three minor placings.
Ohokas Bondy began speedily from barrier eight, but was trapped four wide for the first 200m and then raced three wide for the next 400m before moving outside the pacemaker, giving Black N Bettor an ideal passage, one-out and one-back.
Lovers Delight was restrained by Chris Lewis from barrier nine and was last in the field of 12 after a lap had been completed. Shipwreck settled in ninth place and Morgan Woodley sent him forward, three wide, with 1200m to travel. This three-wide run was followed by Lovers Delight.
Shipwreck went four wide 250m from home and finished powerfully to be second, 2.5m from the winner. Lovers Delight battled on into third place, a half-length behind Shipwreck.
Trojan Bromac, who trailed Seel N Print all the way, ran on well late to be fourth, with Artemis Belle, the only filly in the race, a fighting fifth after leading up the three-wide line from the 900m.
Simply the best, that's Ima Spicey Lombo
Five-year-old Ima Spicey Lombo enhanced her reputation as WA's best mare and one of the top mares in Australia when she gave another powerhouse performance to win the $50,000 Sky Racing Empress Stakes over 2506m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
"She's all heart and she did all the work in the race and was good enough to go on and win," said Chris Lewis after driving Ima Spicey Lombo to a half-length victory over her stablemate Arctic Fire, with Little Big Sister rattling home from the rear to be third.
Esprit Bromac held up from the pole before Shannon Suvaljko sent Magnum Opus (10/1, 7/1) to the front after 500m. Ima Spicey Lombo started from barrier eight and raced four and then three wide for the first lap before getting to the breeze with 1550m to travel.
Ima Spicey Lombo, favourite at 3/1 on, got her head in front 250m from home and then forged well clear on the home turn before having to hold out the fast-finishing Arctic Fire, who had raced three back on the pegs. Magnum Opus wilted to fifth."She travelled beautifully in the breeze, but I had to shake her up a bit in the straight," Lewis admitted. "She then pricked her ears and just kicked on, and that's what good horses do."
Ima Spicey Lombo, bred in New South Wales and owned by Mick and Freda Lombardo, now has amassed $481,431 in prizemoney from her 24 wins and 12 placings from 54 starts. She is trained by Ross Olivieri, who holds a clear advantage over Gary Hall sen. on the on the leading trainers' list, both at Gloucester Park and Statewide.
Olivieri now has trained 66 city winners this season and leads from Hall (55) and Greg Bond (35). On the Statewide list, Olivieri leads with 86 winners from Hall (60) and Bond (43).
Ima Spicey Lombo boasts an outstanding record in WA, with her 14 appearances at Gloucester Park producing eight wins, three seconds and three thirds.
Crombie all set for a tilt at the Chariots of Fire
Victorian-bred pacer Crombie warmed up for the rich Chariots of Fire at Menangle later this month with a superb victory over veteran speedster Has The Answers at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Driven expertly by Morgan Woodley, the Ross Olivieri-trained Crombie (6/4) carried too many guns for Has The Answers, the 5/4 on favourite over his pet distance of 1700m.
Crombie, starting from the outside in the field of eight, was restrained to the rear by Woodley while Has The Answers (Colin Brown) charged forward from the No. 7 barrier and surged past Atomic Arc and Jay Factor and into the lead 450m after the start.
The first 400m section of the final mile whizzed by in a sizzling 27.8sec. before Brown got the eight-year-old to amble through the next section in a comfortable 30.7sec.
Crombie was last at the 950m mark before Woodley started a three-wide run approaching the bell. Mysta Magical Mach was in the breeze and Crombie was kept three wide all the way around the next two bends and down the back straight. But Crombie was travelling in grand style and burst to the front on the home turn before beating Has The Answers by 2.5m, with Atomic Arc finishing 8m farther back in third place.
"When I saw the first quarter come up on the board at 27sec. (27.8sec.) O had no choice but to go and get up there to make sure we were within striking distance of Has The Answers, and Crombie to his credit fought on so well and did a fantastic job.
"It was nice to stay out of that early speed. Crombie switched off a bit once he hit the front and Has The Answers fought back, which is a little bit out of character. Normally when he's headed he gives it away over the final 100m."
Crombie dashed over the final 800m in 57sec. and he now has earned $358,008 from his 16 wins and 11 placings from 38 starts.
Crombie, winner of the WA Derby last April, will travel to Sydney to contest a qualifying race for the Chariots of Fire at TABCorp Park, Menangle. The $200,000 Chariots of Fire will be run on April 30. Woodley has been engaged to drive Crombie in his Sydney races.
Red-hot Brew steers home 11 winners in eight days
Ravenswood horseman Chris Brew completed a remarkable purple patch by driving the final two winners on the program at Gloucester Park on Friday night to give him 11 winners in the space of eight days.
"It's a bit surreal," said an elated Brew after guiding Constant Addiction (backed from 14/1 to 7/1) to an easy victory over Strongbow Lombo (16/1) and the 5/2 on favourite Cromac Johnny in the 2506m DBC Tender Ridge Pace.
The 30-year-old Victorian-born Brew is certainly experiencing his most successful season in harness racing. He has driven 58 winners and 91 placegetters and is in fifth place behind Chris Lewis (121), Shannon Suvaljko (106), Morgan Woodley (96) and Colin Brown (79) on the Statewide drivers' premiership table.
"It's been a terrific season on the country circuit," Brew declared. "We've been trying to place our horses to win in the country before we bring them to town too much.
"We're hoping we can turn some of the country success into city success over the next six months. It's a higher grade in town and you're competing against the top stables. We try our best, but we haven't got some of the expensive horses that you're competing against."
Brew's amazing run of success started on Friday April 1 when he was successful with Please Release Me and Hy Royale at Gloucester Park. He then drove a double at Kellerberrin on the following Sunday with Eyes On Armbro and Caesars Cloud before scoring with Siena Franco at Pinjarra on the Monday.
At Gloucester Park on the Tuesday he won with Hy Leimposing and at Narrogin two nights later he landed a treble with The Feather Foot, Next Tiger and Ballas Arockstar before scoring with Therecomesatime and Constant Addiction at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Brew, who is assisted at his Ravenswood stables by Victorian Brett Coghill, said that a change of gear helped Constant Addiction to return to the winning list on Friday night.
"We've had him in an open bridle pretty much ever since we've had him and he always felt like a horse who needed something to help him concentrate over the last 200m," Brew explained. "About three months ago we put a hood on him, but he refused to score up. So off that came and he continued racing in an open bridle.
"We have been a bit cautious about putting head gear on him again, but we finally decided to try using sliding Dolly Varden blinkers. We tried the sliding dollies in training during the week and we used then for the first time in a race tonight.
"They made him concentrate and go to the line strongly over the final 300 to 400m. He's an out-and-out stayer and with the gear changes we wanted to try to run his rivals off their legs and use his staying prowess.
"He didn't break 29sec. for any quarter, but he didn't go much over 30sec. either." Constant Addiction jumped straight to the front from the No. 1 barrier, leaving Cromac Johnny, having his first start for four months working hard in the breeze.
Constant Addiction, a WA-bred five-year-old son of Parsons Den and a winner of only one race from his previous 24 starts, had the opposition struggling to keep up as he set a solid pace, with the final four 400m sections going by in 30.4sec., 29.7sec., 29.4sec. and 30.1sec. He won by just under two lengths at a 2min. rate.
Constant Addiction, whose dam Constant Craving earned $75,427 from her ten wins and 23 placings from 102 starts, now has had 56 starts for eight wins and 15 placings for stakes of $52,735.
Luck changes for Therecomesatime
Lady Luck has eventually shone on lightly-raced New Zealand-bred five-year-old Therecomesatime.
He had finished second at nine of his 33 starts, with four of those defeats being by a margin of a nose and two others by less than a half-length.
Therecomesatime, backed from 5/2 to second favouritism at 2/1, dashed to the front 400m after the start and then set a solid pace before being headed in the final 80m by Wrongly Accused (11/2) in the 2100m Sky Form Pathway Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
But Therecomesatime fought back grandly to regain the lead right on the line to win by a head from Wrongly Accused, with Gday Mate (11/2) fighting on doggedly after racing behind the pacemaker.
"It's about time the photo went this horse's way," said trainer-reinsman Chris Brew. "He's a little bit one-paced, but he's a real competitor and is quite strong."
Therecomesatime started from barrier six and Brew did not bustle him early while Idolize Me led for the first 150m before Gday Mate took over in front. Brew then dashed Therecomesatime to the lead after 400m and thegelding then gave a bold frontrunning display.
"We just wanted to work our way to the front and we were confident of getting there because there was mostly sit-sprinters drawn inside of him," Brew said. "And with his free-rolling style of racing it was going to be to their benefit to hand up to us. Often it was been the horse sitting behind him who has finished on to beat him."
Time To Smile makes the punters happy
When Time To Smile was allocated No. 2 in the random barrier draw last Tuesday most punters considered the lightly-raced gelding a good thing in the Sky Racing WA Derby Consolation at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
So it came as no surprise when the harness racing cognoscenti rallied to plunge Time To Smile from 9/4 to 5/4 favouritism, and there were smiles all around after Justin Prentice had an armchair drive to steer him to an effortless all-the-way victory."I was pretty confident," Prentice admitted. "I didn't think we'd get to the front that early. But I wasn't worried if I had to sit him up. I didn't even have top pull the plugs and he went to the line really well. I think he will keep on improving."
There was absolutely no pressure placed on the frontrunning Time To Smile, who coasted through the first two 400m sections of the final mile in 31.9sec. and 31.6sec. before he sprinted the final 800m in 58.1sec. He covered the 2506m journey in 3min. 11sec., which was 5sec. slower than the time recorded by Seel N Print in winning the final of the WA Derby.
Go West U Terror, second favourite at 7/4, raced without cover before fighting on to finish second.
The WA-bred Time To Smile, trained by Kim Prentice at Boyanup, has won at three of his seven starts and looks set for a bright career. His dam Pocket Time won twice in New Zealand and four times in Victoria.
Pocket Time also is the dam of Moment In Time, who earned $188,378 from 19 wins and 11 placings from 58 starts. She won 13 races in Victoria and six in WA. Justin Prentice drove her to three of her WA wins, including her first-up success in this State, at Bunburyin July 2006.
Blue McCool runs on to make it two out of two
Well-bred colt Blue McCool remained unbeaten when he started at the liberal odds of 12/1 and finished powerfully to snatch victory from Polak in the Find Thirty Every Day Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Owned by Fred Baptiste, trained at Capel by Andrew de Campo and driven by Matt White, Blue McCool was restrained from the No. 7 barrier and impressed in running home strongly from ninth at the bell to win at a 1.58.9 rate in the 1700m event for two-year-olds.
This followed his impressive victory on debut at Gloucester Park the previous Saturday night when he raced without cover before beating Tightrope and Polak.
His victory saw the downfall for the second time of hot favourite Soho Daytona, who was backed from 5/4 to 2/1 on. Soho Daytona was a 5/1 on chance at his previous start, a fortnight earlier when he led and was placed under extreme pressure by Iceman Jaxon, overracing badly on his outside. Soho Daytona faded to finish second to Clifford.
Once again Soho Daytona was a victim of circumstances. Starting from barrier six, Soho Daytona raced three wide early before forging to the front after 450m. But he as then placed under tremendous pressure by The Star Buster, who raced fiercely in the breeze.
Soho Daytona faded to finish fifth, with The Star Buster holding on to finish third. The Star Buster was produced fresh in condition and this caused him to overrace. The colt will race with deafeners affixed in future.
Blue McCool, by, is out of Tripdlyt Fantastic, who was retired after being unplaced at two starts in Kalgoorlie as a three-year-old in December 2003. Tripdlyt Fantastic's dam Arctic Lights had 11 starts for three country wins before producing four winners, including Arctic Dawn and Miss Electra.
Arctic Dawn had 165 starts for 13 wins and 43 placings for earnings of $70,859 and Miss Electra earned $199,345 from her 14 wins and 11 placings from only 32 starts. Her best win was in the 2001 WA Oaks.
Packed Safely, a day-to-day proposition gets home
Lightly-raced five-year-old Packed Safely, hampered throughout his career by suspect legs, notched his seventh win from only 20 starts when he gave a bold frontrunning display to beat Alby Albert by a length in the 2096m WA TAB Agents Association Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
It ended a frustrating run of four seconds and a third placing from his previous six starts and reinsman Ron Young said that the win was well and truly overdue.
"We've got to win what we can because he's really a day-to-day proposition," he said. "We love him and he does his best every time."
Packed Safely, backed from 3/1 to favouritism at 2/1, was slightly slow into stride from barrier two in the stand, but was able to muster enough early pace to settle in front. He then was able to dictate the terms of the race and sprinted home nicely over the final 800m in 58.2sec. to easily hold Alby Albert (11/2 to 4/1) at bay. A distant third was 14/1 chance Rigatoni, who ran on from ninth at the bell.
Uncle Kracker, second favourite at 3/1, galloped away off the 10m mark and never threatened before battling on from eighth at the bell to finish sixth.
Packed Safely was bred by Karen Young, who races the horse in partnership with her teenage son Matthew. Packed Safely showed considerable early promise and in early 2009 won the South-West Derby at Bunbury and the Country Derby at Gloucester Park. In each classic he beat the talented Son of Fergie into second place.
Packed Safely, by, is out of Packed And Ready, who had 68 starts for seven wins and nine placings for stakes of $36,919. Packed Safely now has earned $67,808 in prizemoney.
Ohoka du Nord continues on his winning way
Ohoka du Nord continued his inexorable march towards open-class company with another brilliant performance at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Favourite at 5/2 on and driven for trainer Grant Williams by Nathan Turvey, the New Zealand-bred five-year-old simply was far too good for the opposition in the 1700m Sky Racing TV Pace.
He began speedily from barrier nine, but was beaten for the early lead by Ultima Chance, a 33/1 chance with the course bookmaker and a 92/1 tote outsider. But Turvey remained cool and composed and was quite content to allow Ohoka du Nord to race outside the pacemaker.
Ohoka du Nord dashed to the front 130m from home and won in fine style by 5m from 5/1 second favourite Belhelvie, rating 1.56.9 after dashing over the final 800m in 57.5sec.
Ultima Chance held on gamely to finish third, with Conte Centovalli running on from eighth on the pegs at the bell to finish fourth.
This gave Ohoka du Nord a fine record of 20 starts for 12 wins and five placings for earnings of $70,571 in prizemoney.
"It didn't bother me that he didn't get to the lead," said Turvey. "Sparksy (driver Glen Richards) wanted to run along a bit (with Ultima Chance) and I was more worried about the horse on my back (Belhelvie). It turned into a sprint between us and it was the first time I've had to pull the plugs on him, and he went to the line well."
Aussie Reactor proves to be a tremendous buy
Aussie Reactor, purchased for $19,500 at the 2007 Gloucester Standardbred Yearling Sale, boosted his earnings to $232,889 when he scored an impressive victory in the Sky No. 1 In Racing Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Owned by Tony Giglietta and Brett Tottman and prepared by Gary Hall sen., the five-year-oldgelding now boasts a splendid record of 18 wins and nine placings from 46 starts. And he looks set for many more wins.
Favourite at 2/1 on, he started from the outside barrier in a field of eight and reinsman Kim Prentice settled him in last position before sending him forward, three wide, in the first lap to move outside the pacemaker Village Ruler 600m after the start.
Prentice was content to allow Aussie Reactor to race in the breeze before sending him to the front 400m from home. Aussie Reactor opened up a lead of two lengths on the home turn and he went on to win by 2m from the fast-finishing Little Sonny Bill, rating 1.58.4 over the 2100m journey. He sprinted the final 800m in a sparkling 56.3sec.
"He's been racing off back marks (in stands) and hasn't been getting away," Prentice said. "He's been given them (his rivals) a big start and has been running huge races.
"When the field came out on Tuesday it just looked like his race, a small field and no real breeze horse. He's done a great job and he's run home a quick half, and that's not normally him. He's done it real easily.
"He's a funny horse who doesn't really get on the bit. But once he got to the breeze he travelled real strong and he always had the race under control."