Day At The Track

Suvaljko on the crest of a wave

06:34 AM 04 Nov 2016 NZDT
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Shannon Suvaljko
Shannon Suvaljko is riding on the crest of a wave
Paceway Photography

Shannon Suvaljko has high hopes of continuing his remarkable run of successes with star harness racing mare Libertybelle Midfrew when he drives the New Zealand-bred six-year-old in the Westral Rhadsody Venetians Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The 47-year-old Suvaljko is riding on the crest of a wave and he boasts an outstanding record behind the Mike Reed-trained Libertybelle Midfrew, having driven her nine times for eight wins and a third placing.

He drove the Christian Cullen mare at her first five starts in Western Australia in April-May 2014 for five wins, including the group 1 $150,000 WA Oaks when she beat The Parade by seven lengths.

He recently resumed as her driver and has handled her at her past four starts for a third behind Bettors Fire and then to all-the-way victories from the prized No. 1 barrier at her next three outings.

Libertybelle Midfrew fared well in the random draw for this week’s 2130m event and will start from barrier three on the front line with Change Stride and Mynameskenny on her inside.

Change Stride and Mynameskenny each possesses excellent gate speed, but there is a strong chance that Suvaljko will be able to get Libertybelle Midfrew to the front soon after the start. Change Stride began speedily from barrier five in a 2130m event last Friday night and took the lead after 150m before Ryan Warwick opted to take the sit behind Tricky Styx 300m later.

Mynameskenny, a winner at 20 of his 36 starts for Byford trainer John Oldroyd, steps up in class after his last-start victory over Three Blind Mice at Bunbury when he worked hard in the breeze before asserting his authority in the final stages.

Reed has timed Libertybelle Midfrew’s preparation for the TABtouch interdominion championship series to perfection and Suvaljko was full of praise for the mare after her most recent win, when she led and fought on with fierce determination to defeat Run Oneover over 2130m in the group 3 Mount Eden Pace last Friday week.

“They gave it to her a long way out … and there were some good horses behind us,” he said. “On the line she was strong and going away from them. She’s a great horse, running 28.2sec. coming into the bell and 27.1sec. down the back before coming home in 28.7sec. Not many horses do that.”

Run Oneover, trained by Gary Hall sen., again looms large as a serious rival to Libertybelle Midfrew. To be handled by Clint Hall, Run Oneover will start from barrier five. He also started from the No. 5 barrier in the Mount Eden Pace in which he enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before running home powerfully to fail narrowly.

The Hall stable will also be represented in this week’s event by the consistent Cyamach and Waylade, who showed a return to his best form last Friday night when he raced in seventh position, four back on the pegs, before finishing strongly to be an eye-catching third behind Tricky Styx and Beaudiene Boaz.

Cyamach, who has amassed $355,396 in prizemoney from 18 wins and 33 placings from 77 starts, is awkwardly drawn at barrier six, but Waylade has a handy draw at No. 2 on the back line.

Heez On Fire, prepared by octogenarian Bill Horn, will again have the services of Chris Lewis and is sure to have many admirers after excellent performances at his first three runs after a seven-month absence.

Heez On Fire trailed the pacemaker Libertybelle Midfrew in the Mount Eden Pace and was hampered for room in the home straight before finishing fast along the inside to be a close-up third. Two starts before that he flew home from last at the 250m mark to be second, a half-length behind the winner Libertybelle Midfrew.

Suvaljko said he expected Libertybelle Midfrew to perform even better than she did when winning last Friday week when the mare was slightly underdone after not having been given a hoppled run in the week leading up to the race.

“Actually, barrier three is not a bad draw,” he said. “Change Stride handed up last week, but they might want to lead this week. And Mynameskenny gets out okay, but he’s more a sit and kick horse in this grade.

“The main ones to beat are drawn outside of Libertybelle Midfrew, so the chief aim will be to keep in front of Heez On Fire and Run Oneover. We will come out hard with the aim of leading. But if we can’t, I’ll be happy in the breeze --- and she will run home strongly. She’s pretty tough.” 

Ryan Bell will handle Change Stride and Ryan Warwick will be in the sulky behind stablemate Simply Susational, who is poorly drawn at barrier seven.

Ken Casellas

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