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It’s a virtual smorgasbord for punters at Gloucester Park on Friday night with seven different best bets - two of them in the same race - from WA Trotting Media Guild members. Guild president Wayne Currall gets the ball rolling in the opening event where his best for the night, Golden State, starts out in gate seven from the 2536m start. “Golden State has had four runs back since a five-month spell and should be cherry ripe to deliver the goods,” Currall said. “He drops appreciably in class in this race and I’m hoping driver Michael Grantham uses the horse’s speed from the mobile to take up the early running. If Golden State finds the front his nine rivals will find it very hard to run him down.” The West Australian’s Ernie Manning is keen on Crocodile Kid in race three. “Crocodile Kid provides the rare example of a pacer that can be declared as best bet only one week after running last,” Manning said. “But he endured a tough run in the breeze last Friday night and now gate one has swung the odds back in his favour. A winner of 13 races, he deserves to break through for another victory after twice running second by a head at Gloucester Park in recent weeks.” Next cab off the rank is TABradio’s Matt Young, who has opted for Mighty Santana in race four as his star bet. “Mighty Santana has been racing very well and can do his fair share of work,” Young said. “I expect him to be too strong for his rivals.” The Longshot King, Pat Harding, steps up to the plate next and the man who has won the Guild’s longest-priced winner competition for several years in a row, predicts pre-post favourite Ocean Ridge will take out the $50,000 The West Australian Nights of Thunder Final (1730m). “On what should be a very competitive night of racing, my best bet comes up in the sixth race, the feature Nights of Thunder Final,” Harding said. “I think Ocean Ridge from barrier three is the one to follow. After an excellent win last week, I think he can give punters more joy and make it two in a row.” Veteran journalist Ken Casellas, who this week penned a moving tribute to Joe Petricevich, 97, who passed away on the eve of the WA Pacing Cup, has come up with the aptly named Sameplace Sametime in the tribute race for the late trainer. Not surprisingly, Mr Casellas - Kenny to his mates - gave a wink and a nod to the heavens when he nominated Sameplace Sametime as his star bet in the Vale Joe Petricevich Pace (2130m). Kenny explains. “There’s plenty of value at Gloucester Park on Friday night and I’m suggesting as my best bet Sameplace Sametime, a Kevin Charles-trained mare with a losing sequence of 15,” he said. “The five-year-old is sure to appreciate a favourable draw at No. 2 on the front line and she should be prominent throughout.” But TABradio’s Hayden King took the losing-sequences theory to another level when he settled on Leftrightgoodnight as his best bet in the same race. The Sonia Zucchiatti-trained 10-year-old gelding hasn’t saluted in more than 40 races, but that hasn’t deterred King. “Leftrightgoodnight has really run into some form recently and he is drawn to secure a delicate run behind the leader,” King said. “Daylight is likely to come and he can outgun them late.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft rounds out the night with Howard Hughes as his best. “Howard Hughes has impressed at two Pinjarra outings since arriving from New Zealand and appears a likely WA Derby candidate,” Havercroft said. “It is hard to see any of his rivals in this being able to stop his undefeated local record from continuing.“ VALUE BETS WAYNE: Mister Ardee should get out to a juicy price in the fourth event. He’s been about the place of late and just needs a quick pace to rocket home. ERNIE: Mandy Joan impressed when clearly winning a Byford trial last Sunday and looks capable of a big first-up run despite having drawn gate 12. The mare, who last raced in August, has won three Gloucester Park events. MATT: Leftrightgoodnight has a beautiful draw and with an ounce of luck will have last crack at them. The old boy is capable of winning. PAT: My value bet comes up in race nine the trotters event. I believe Spud coming out of barrier No.5 is long overdue for a win. He has been about the place in his last few races, but gets his chance to record a much-needed victory. KEN: For value, I suggest Mandy Joan in the Im Themightyquinnfinal. The David Thompson-trained mare will be at juicy odds from the outside of the back line at her first appearance after a spell. She has impressed with convincing wins in Byford trials on the past two Sunday mornings. HAYDEN: Im Full Of Excuses won't be too short and he is drawn to trail the leader in the FFA. He has proven formidable from this position before and he seems to be really hitting his straps recently. He will be hard to beat. RYAN: You Gotta Have Faith has been thereabouts at recent outings and loves being out in front. The draw brings him right into calculations. To view all of the Media Guild tips click here.   Wayne Currall

Inexperienced New Zealand-bred colt Howard Hughes is poised to notch his third victory in the space of 14 days by proving the master of his eight rivals in the Mondo Doro Smallgoods Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. A victory for the Greg and Skye Bond-trained three-year-old would enhance his prospects in the $200,000 WA Derby on April 3. He arrived in Western Australia on January 3 after his two starts in New Zealand produced an easy win over 2000m at Addington on October 18 and a head second over 1980m on November 12 on the same track. On his debut Howard Hughes, driven by Blair Orange, started out wide at barrier eight on a heavy rain-affected track. After settling in fourth position five lengths from the early leader, he dashed forward to take the lead 1150m from home before winning by just under two lengths from four-year-old The Guild at a 2.2.4 rate. Then, at his next start, he was not bustled early from out wide at barrier seven by reinsman Anthony Butt and after settling in fifth place he moved to the breeze after 450m outside the pacemaker Tiebreaker before getting to the front 500m from home and fighting on grimly when a head second to Ascalabus, who rated 1.56.6 over 1980m. He led from barrier two, and though at a disadvantage when the hopple shortener cord wrapped around the hopple, he was untroubled to win by more than four lengths from Lord Rosco at a 1.58.6 rate over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week. Then, at Pinjarra on Monday, he began speedily from the No. 6 barrier, but was unable to wrest the early lead from the polemarker Tyron Terranova. He then obtained a perfect trail in the one-out, one-back position before finishing powerfully to win by 5m from Tyron Terranova, with a final quarter in 27.3sec. Howard Hughes in the 11th and last foal out of the Falcon Seelster mare Heavenly Franco and is closely related to the Holmes Hanover gelding Franco Hat Trick, who won the 1998 Chariots of Fire at Harold Park before a successful career in America and retiring with stakes of $659,210. Howard Hughes is also related to Franco Heir, the winner of the New South Wales Derby in May 2001. On Friday night Howard Hughes, to be handled by leading reinsman Ryan Warwick, will start from barrier five. Among his rivals are Tiffany Rose, trainer Justin Prentice’s talented gelding Manning, Coolup trainer Kristy Elson’s smart quartet of Jasperbellabeach, Secret Operation, My Agera and Telk Tayte and Pinjarra trainer-reinsman Shane Young’s promising gelding Longreach Bay, who resumed after a spell in style with a strong-finishing and easy victory over 2242m at Narrogin on Sunday. Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is looking forward to Tiffany Rose, the only filly in the race, tackling the seven colts and geldings. She will start from the outside in the field of nine and certainly has the ability to beat her male rivals. “Unfortunately, there are no races for fillies and we want to get her ready for the New South Wales Oaks,” said Reed. “So, we decided to test her against the colts and geldings this week. “After this race Tiffany Rose will contest the $50,000 Daintys Daughter Classic on February 7 before travelling by air to Sydney for the $200,000 NSW Oaks on February 29. Then she will return to Perth, have a freshen up and then get ready for the $150,000 WA Oaks on May 1.” Star Sydney reinsman Luke McCarthy will handle Tiffany Rose in the NSW Oaks, with Reed explaining: “He trains there, he knows the track and he knows the opposition.” Michael Grantham has driven Tiffany Rose in her six starts in WA for five wins and a last-start third behind Double Expresso and Suing You over 21230m at Gloucester Park last Friday week when she charged home from last at the bell and finished a half-length from the winner. “It’s a good field on Friday night,” Reed said. “I believe she’s up to it. She is very good and can beat the boys. I clocked her at 54.6sec. for the last half and she was still coming on the line.”   Ken Casellas

New Zealand-bred five-year-old Golden State has been unplaced at his four appearances since resuming from a spell, has finished sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth in four attempts over 2536m, he has led in eight of his 12 wins in a 34-start career and has drawn awkwardly out wide at barrier seven in the 2536m TABtouch Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. These are hardly the credentials one is seeking when assessing the horse’s winning prospects. However, astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is confident that Golden State will bounce back to top form and give punters a flying start in race one on an interesting ten-event program. “He’s going good but has had no luck at all since resuming from a spell,” said Reed. “A couple of times he didn’t get clear (runs) and last week he was most unlucky when seventh behind Im Full of Excuses (when he trailed the pacemaker Talktomeurmattjesty and Michael Grantham was unable to obtain a clear passage in the final stages behind the wilting Talktomeurmattjesty). “Michael said that Golden State definitely would have run second if he was able to get into the clear. He said the horse was bolting on the line.” This week Golden State meets weaker opposition than he has met at his four runs since a spell and Reed declared that racing over 2536m would not be a problem, saying: “The distance won’t worry him; he relaxes in his races. “Golden State has good gate speed and can also come from behind. I’ll leave the tactics up to Michael and Albert (owner Albert Walmsley). Over 2500m, Michael can get Golden State to settle before sending him forward.” Though Golden State will appreciate not having to contend with quality pacers of the calibre of Caviar Star, Bill Haley, Herrick Roosevelt, Convert Denario, Im Full of Excuses and Ideal Liner, he is sure to meet strong opposition from in-form pacers Pick My Pocket, Jimmy Mack, As Happy As Larry and Quick Stride. Chris Lewis has given punters a good lead by opting to drive the Ross Olivieri-trained Jimmy Mack (barrier eight) in preference to the Justin Prentice-trained Pick My Pocket (barrier six). Lewis has driven Pick My Pocket at her past two starts for a fast-finishing second to Fake News over 1730m and an all-the-way win at a 1.56.8 rate over 2130m. Gary Hall jnr will handle Pick My Pocket this week, with Prentice engaging Dylan Egerton-Green for the polemarker and last start all-the-way winner Quick Stride. Thirteen-year-old Maximum Demand will start from barrier three but faces much tougher opposition than he did at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening when he finished strongly from last at the bell to win easily from the pacemaker Donegal Art Chokin over 2536m.   Ken Casellas

Just four days after the TABtouch-WA Pacing Cup, attention has now turned towards the WA Derby and WA Oaks in the autumn with some of the key three-year-olds to step out this week. Bettors Delight colt Howard Hughes kept his unbeaten record in Perth intact with a comfortable 4.8m win in the Hygain Recuperate Pace (2185m) at Pinjarra. The Greg and Skye Bond-trained pacer showed a dazzling burst of speed in the home straight to run down race leader Tyron Terranova. Prior to the race, co-trainer Skye Bond told TABradio Howard Hughes was “relatively inexperienced” but hoped to have the colt ready for the WA Derby later this year. Earlier in the day, consistent filly Blockjorg produced a game performance first-up to take out the Fiber Fresh Feeds Equine Stakes 3YO Fillies Pace (2185m), her first career win in nine starts. The Hes Watching filly, who was placed in the Group 1 Diamond Classic last year, led all the way in 1.59.9 and held off Run For Mercy over the concluding stages. Meanwhile, tonight sees a small but select field set to do battle in the Etch Coatings 3YO Pace (2130m). Valentines Brook (barrier one), Awaiting Instructions (two), Gardys Legacy (five) and Alta Engen (six) are all last start winners and will be looking to push their claims for feature races. Matthew Scott trains Awaiting Instructions and said he was confident the gelding could make it four wins in a row against a high quality field. “He’s a pretty exciting type of horse,” he told TABradio. “He obviously went to Busselton to teach him a little bit. “A couple of races we had him in were falling over and the owner Mr Blee, being a country guy down in Manjimup, was pretty keen to run him down there. “This is a really good race for a Tuesday night. “Half of these horses could end up in a Derby without anyone being shocked. “Whether we lead or not, it depends on how much speed Valentines Brook shows.” Elsewhere, Friday night’s three-year-old event is poised to be one of the highlights at Gloucester Park. Double Expresso, Jaspervellabeach, Tiffany Rose, Manning and Howard Hughes are among the 13 nominations for the event.   Tim Walker

Greg and Skye Bond are the State’s pre-eminent trainers who will notch a remarkable achievement by having a record number of seven starters in the TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. They appear to have a stranglehold on the $450,000 Group 1 feature event to be decided over the testing long journey of 2936m and they agree that classy seven-year-old Galactic Star is their major hope, with five-year-old Mighty Conqueror their second best winning prospect. The Bonds have won every major Group 1 event in the State, with the exception being the WA Pacing Cup in which they went close 12 months ago when El Jacko flew home along the pegs to finish a half-length second to the pacemaker Rocknroll Lincoln. Galactic Star, owned by Skye Bond and Rob Gartrell, is awkwardly drawn on the inside of the back line, leaving leading reinsman Ryan Warwick with the gnawing problem of whether to follow stablemate Our Jimmy Johnstone, who has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier, or to make a spirited effort to ease Galactic Star off the pegs and into the one-wide line as soon as possible. Galactic Star also started from the inside of the back line in the 2536m Fremantle Cup last Friday night and travelled strongly under lock and key in eighth position, four back on the pegs, before he hit a marker peg 250m from home and broke into a fierce gallop. He dropped back and finished last. “Ryan said Galactic Star was just ‘travelling’ and would have proved to be very hard to beat last week if he had not struck the peg,” said Gartrell, who also is a part-owner of stablemates Our Jimmy Johnstone, Vampiro and Ana Malak. “He’s a great horse and very dangerous. And the 2936m will be right up his alley.” This will be Galactic Star’s third attempt at winning the WA Pacing Cup. A 40/1 chance, he galloped out from barrier three in the 2018 Cup, raced at the rear and was blocked for a clear passage in the final circuit when 11th behind Soho Tribeca. Then, last year Galactic Star was a 4/1 chance from barrier seven when he raced three wide early before obtaining an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, and then wilting to finish 11th behind Rocknroll Lincoln. “To have four runners in the Cup is a great thrill,” said Gartrell. “Our Jimmy Johnstone likes to lead; he loves the long trip and will be very competitive,” he said. “You don’t often draw No. 1 at Gloucester Park, so when you do, you’ve certainly got to do your best work.” Our Jimmy Johnstone, an 11-year-old and veteran of 127 starts, will be handled by 21-year-old Bailey McDonough, the youngest driver in the race. If Our Jimmy Johnstone is successful, he will become the second oldest winner of the WA Pacing Cup behind Defiance, the 13-year-old gelding who was driven to victory by his trainer Bernie Cushing in the 1961 Cup. Our Jimmy Johnstone showed his ability as a pacemaker when McDonough drove him to an all-the-way victory in the 2536m Brennan Memorial last September. He started from  barrier four and raced in the one-out, one-back position when a sound fifth in last week’s Fremantle Cup which was won by Caviar Star who got up in the final couple of strides to beat the pacemaker Vampiro by a head. This will be Our Jimmy Johnstone’s fourth appearance in a WA Pacing Cup. As a six-year-old he was a 6/1 chance as the Bond stable’s only runner in the 2015 Cup when he started from the inside of the back line and raced one-out and two-back before finishing a sound fourth behind My Hard Copy. From barrier six and a 16/1 chance in 2017, he raced wide in the middle stages and finished last behind Chicago Bull. In last year’s Cup he was a 125/1 outsider from barrier nine and raced one-out and two-back when a solid fifth behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Vampiro, to be driven by Colin Brown, will again start from the outside barrier (No. 9) and Brown is likely to again use the six-year-old’s sparkling gate speed in a bid to set the pace. “Skye has always been a big wrap for Vampiro,” Gartrell said. “He’s probably been a bit immature and has taken a while to come through. He’s getting better and better and last week he showed what he can do. He has that speed (at the start) and he’s tough. It will be interesting to see where we go from barrier nine this week. I think he has the speed to cross (to the front).” Ana Malak was driven by Michael Grantham in last week’s Fremantle Cup when he started from barrier seven and was 11th at the bell before charging home along the pegs to be a close-up and eye-catching fourth behind Caviar Star. Nathan Turvey will drive Ana Malak from the No. 7 barrier this week, with Grantham being engaged to handle the Bond-trained Our Alfie Romeo, the only mare in the race. Ana Malak, whose 11 wins from 23 starts include the Four-Year-Old Classic and Golden Nugget in late 2018, is being sought by American buyers. “This could be his swansong,” said Gartrell. “We have received quite a good offer and a decision hasn’t been made. You’ve got to be commercial in this industry. But if he wins the Cup, he probably won’t be up for sale.” Our Alfie Romeo, a winner at 18 of her 36 starts, is favourably drawn at barrier No. 3 on the front line. But she faces a stern test against seasoned group 1 campaigners. The Pacing Cup has not been won by a mare over the past 48 years, with the most recent winner being the Les Marriott trained and driven Pyramus in 1972. Nineteen mares have won the big race in its 106-year history, with only four being successful over the past 73 years. Letty Lind, a mare trained and driven by Charlie Fraser, rated 2.46.3 when she beat another mare, Heather Bells by ten lengths in the inaugural Cup at the WACA Ground in 1913. Our Alfie Romeo warmed up for this week’s assignment in grand style when she began speedily from barrier three, set the pace, sprinted over the final quarters in  28.2sec. and 27.4sec. to win, unextended, by almost three lengths from Fake News at a 1.57.3 rate over 2130m last Friday night. Dylan Egerton-Green has been booked to drive the richly talented Mighty Conqueror, a five-year-old who has raced only 26 times for 15 wins. The New Zealand-bred gelding will start from barrier five and looks set to fight out the finish. He has recovered from a bruised hoof which forced him to miss last week’s Fremantle Cup. Warwick is a great admirer of Mighty Conqueror and after driving him to victory at Gloucester Park earlier this season he said: “His ability is scary. His weaponry is outstanding and every time I come off the track, I say to everyone that it is unreal what he can do. We haven’t had one like him for a while and he doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s pretty exciting.” Egerton-Green has a wonderful association with Mighty Conqueror. He has driven him just twice for a third to Ana Malak and Ideal Liner in the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in November 2018 and for a nose second to Ana Malak in the $200,000 Golden Nugget the following month. Shockwave, the beaten 9/4 favourite when sixth in last week’s Fremantle Cup, has drawn poorly at barrier eight on the front line, but has an exceptional turn of speed and is capable of a bold showing for trainer Ryan Bell and ace reinsman Gary Hall jnr. Shockwave, winner of the Golden Nugget in mid-December, raced in eighth position in last week’s race before starting a three-wide move 900m from home. He moved to second at the 550m mark before wilting in the closing stages.   “When I watched the replay, his personal sections were off the charts,” said Bell. “Barrier eight this week is just a starting point. I’m pretty rapt with him and, with luck, he can play a big part this week.”   Ken Casellas

The $450,000 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup (2936m - almost four laps around Gloucester Park) takes pride of place at headquarters on Friday night. No prizes for guessing who’ll take home the major prize, with husband and wife team Greg and Skye Bond qualifying seven of the 12 starters - a record for the time-honoured event. But which Bond-trained pacer will pocket the winning $288,000 cheque? Members of the WA Trotting Guild are divided in their summation of the great race. TABradio’s youngest racecaller and form analyst Hayden King was so impressed by Vampiro’s gallant effort in last week’s Fremantle Cup that he’s made the courageous six-year-old gelding his best bet on a star-studded 11-event card. “Vampiro sizzled across and led from the outside barrier last week and can do the same once more,” King predicts. “He set the fractions in track record time and was very plucky, going down by a narrow margin. He can go one better this week.” Four other Guild members believe Vampiro’s stablemate, Galactic Star, will win the cup, while one has opted for another Bond runner, Mighty Conqueror, to rule the roost. Radio Great Southern’s form expert Warren Wishart and veteran stats man Ken Casellas believe the Bonds will dominate the cup, tipping Galactic Star to salute from stablemates Vampiro, Mighty Conqueror and Our Jimmy Johnstone. Wishart’s best bet is As Happy As Larry, who steps out in the 10th event. “As Happy As Larry is my best and punters will be just that if they invest heavily on the pacer,” Wishart said. “He led with ease last start and just went a shade to quick mid race but fought on well. Only danger drawn to his outside - Larry will lead and win.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft is in the same corner. “As Happy As Larry looks close to a win after four runs since resuming,” Havercroft said. “He led until the shadows of the post last week and the extra 400m won’t worry him.” Casellas, along with longshot guru Pat Harding, have found one earlier in the program. “Ocean Ridge has been unplaced at his past three starts, but he is poised to bounce back to winning form by taking full advantage of the No. 1 barrier in the second heat of the Nights of Thunder on Friday night - and he’s my best bet,” Casellas said. “He started from barrier one four starts ago when he set the pace and won from Ideal Liner over 2536m.” Harding agrees. “Another great night of racing ahead at GP this Friday night,” Harding said. “My best bet for the meeting comes up in race two with Ocean Ridge coming out of barrier No. 1. He hasn't had a great deal of luck at his last three starts, but did have some good wins before that. I think he is ideally placed over the sprint distance to lead and win.“ The West Australian’s Ernie Manning is keen on Joe With The Flow in race nine. “Joe With The Flow is in line for a Gloucester Park winning hat-trick after two recent smart victories and has the early speed to take advantage of gate three,” Manning said. ”He handled a class rise in fine style when notching a front-running success two weeks ago. A winner of five Gloucester Park races, he should be a top chance for the long-time formidable combination of trainer Ross Olivieri and reinsman Chris Lewis.“ But TABradio’s racecaller Matt Young disagrees with Manning. “Tyler Brett, getting down in grade, looks very well placed to win,” Young said. “He is versatile and looks the goods.” Guild president Wayne Currall envisages The Dali Express posting an all-the-way victory in the third heat of the Nights of Thunder. “Concession driver Corey Peterson jumps in the bike for the first time behind The Dali Express,” Currall said. “From the pole, Peterson will be keen to make every post a winner with the freewheeling The Dali Express. The Ross Olivieri-trained black gelding ran a slick 55.8sec. for his last 800m when he led all the way over 2130m here in September. They won’t catch him if he reproduces that effort.” VALUE BETS HAYDEN: Dracarys was a brilliant winner last start and she won't be too short this week. She can sit off the pace and whiz home all over the top. WARREN: Golden State is drawn to get a great run and fitter for two runs back. He was an eye-catcher from the back last week. I’m thinking he will be each-way odds and is a knockout chance. RYAN: Clarenden Hustler has been thereabouts without threatening lately, but a good draw over the sprint trip in a nine-horse field gives him options. KEN: For value, I suggest Theo Aviator in race 10 when I predict he has the class to upset the favourite As Happy As Larry over 2536m. He should be storming home off a soft passage. PAT: Bob Wheel won’t know himself coming out of barrier one. Has good gate speed and I think Michael Grantham can keep him out in front in the first race. ERNIE: Mighty Santana has won only once in his past nine starts, but shows signs of a return to form that delivered him three Gloucester Park victories. After three unplaced runs, he impressed when facing the breeze and finishing fourth a fortnight ago. MATT: Our Jimmy Johnstone is beautifully drawn and the old boy has options. Should get a lovely run and could be the fresh legs late. WAYNE: The last time Nitro Lad came out of gate one at GP he finished a close third behind Tarooma Bromac at big odds. He’s poised to play a part in the last at good each-way value. To view all of the Media Guild tips click here.   Wayne Currall

Jack Mack has been one of the most exciting juvenile pacers in Western Australia in recent years but has been dogged by injury and has been off the scene for the past 13 months. However, his stablemate and fellow New Zealand-bred five-year-old Culpeka has overcome problems and is looming as a rising star of WA harness racing. Both pacers were purchased as yearlings in New Zealand by Busselton trainer Barry Howlett, who has formed a close association with prominent trainer-reinsman Brent Mangos, who prepared them for their early racing in New Zealand. Jack Mack failed to be placed at five New Zealand starts before developing into a star performer in WA for Howlett. His 18 appearances in WA have produced 16 wins and a second placing, boosting his stake-earnings to $285,973. His wins included the Pearl Classic for two-year-olds in June 2017 and the Golden Slipper a month later as well as the Three-Year-Old Pearl in May 2018. He last raced when a winner of a Golden Nugget preview at Gloucester Park in December 2018.   Culpeka revealed abundant early promise for Mangos and he was most impressive when he finished powerfully from sixth on the home turn to be second to Spankem in the group 1 New Zealand Sires Stakes for two-year-olds at Addington in May 2017, Spankem, who rated 1.54.2 over 1950m, is now one of Australasia’s finest pacers with a record of 39 starts for 16 wins, 17 placings and $1,297,746 in stakes. His wins include the Miracle Mile in 1.47.7 at Menangle in March 2019. Culpeka won at his debut, as a two-year-old in a 1700m event at Alexandra Park in February 2017 when he raced without cover before beating Alta Mach by two lengths, with Luis Alberto finishing fifth and Jack Mack in eighth place. Culpeka, who is related to Eloquent Mach (25 starts for 11 wins, six placings and $171,169) and Machtu (146 starts for 33 wins, 36 placings and $414,023), has raced four times in Western Australia for a first-up third behind Its Rock And Roll and Shadow Roll at Pinjarra on December 2 last year, followed by convincing wins at his next three starts, at Bunbury, Gloucester Park and Pinjarra. At his most recent outing, over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week, Culpeka, driven by Chris Lewis set the pace from barrier one and dashed over the final 400m in 26.8sec.to win by two lengths from Mileys Desire. After his previous success, beating Dennis by more than three lengths and rating 1.55.2 over 1730m at Gloucester Park, Lewis declared: “There’s a lot of upside with him.” Lewis will again by in the sulky behind Culpeka when the Mach Three pacer starts from the No. 4 barrier on the front line in the 2130m Better Your Industry With TABtouch Pace. He promises to be one of the star bets on the 11-event program.   Ken Casellas

Peter Chivers, a former Victorian country footballer, has always been an enthusiastic follower of harness racing and his determination to become actively involved in the sport is paying handsome dividends. He is now a proud part-owner of Caviar Star, winner of last week’s Fremantle Cup and a major player in the $400,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Almost 25 years ago, Chivers and several of his teammates at the Maryborough Football Club in the Bendigo League chipped in a few dollars to purchase an unraced two-year-old named Young Rhapsody. The young pacer, trained by John Dewhurst, had injury issues and he broke down at his debut and only start. Chivers, now a 53-year-old personal trainer, continued to play country football in Victoria until 19 years ago when he ventured to Perth when one of his mates Jeremy Humm was drafted by the West Coast Eagles. “The Eagles were affiliated with WAFL club East Perth and Jeremy was playing with them,” said Chivers. “He knew that I was keen for an assistant coaching role and said he would give me a leg up at East Perth. The rest is history. I came over and worked for seven years on the senior coaching staff at East Perth where I learnt a lot from Tony Micale, Mark Merenda and David Hynes. “I maintained my keen interest in harness racing and I followed Gary Hall senior and Gary Hall junior. I could see that they were pretty dominant and of the highest ilk. I didn’t know the Halls, but I approached Junior one day on Twitter about 18 months ago. “I had a chat with him, and he put me on to Senior, who told me that that he was hoping to buy Caviar Star from New Zealand. So, that day I viewed the form of Caviar Star and went from there. I’ve got about a 20 per cent interest in the horse. “To be able to own my own horse is a thrill, and it has turned out to be a fabulous ride. The success we’ve had with Caviar Star has been amazing. When I got a share of Caviar Star I met the other owners Karen Hall, Don MacGregor Nick Patriarca and his son Rob and they welcomed me in like they had known me for years. “We had our first race on a Saturday night at Gloucester Park (on July 14, 2018) when it was teeming with rain. Caviar Star started from the outside of the back line and sat three deep for the final 1000 metres and won at a 1.57.3 rate. I then thought that we’d got a horse with a bit of ability.” Caviar Star cost his new band of owners $60,000 (including costs to bring the gelding to Perth) and has been a wonderful success, with his 27 starts in Western Australia producing ten wins, nine seconds and one third for $324,723in prizemoney.    Hall snr, who chalked up a record nine wins in the Fremantle Cup when Stuart McDonald drove the five-year-old to a thrilling head victory over Vampiro last Friday night when the gelding rated 1.54.2 to smash the 2536m track record held by superstar Lazarus, is seeking his twelfth victory in a WA Pacing Cup. “From barrier six it is going to be hard,” Hall said. “Caviar Star is an honest little horse. He is no Chicago Bull or Im Themightyquinn, but he is versatile and tries his heart out.” Chivers agreed with Hall, saying: “It’s going to be hard, but you never know. The horse is in form and is timed to the minute by Senior. We’ve got to make our own luck and if you give yourself the best opportunities you never know your luck in a big race.” While Chivers is an absolute novice in the sport and to big races, champion reinsman Chris Lewis is at the other end of the scale and will be enjoying the experience of competing in a WA Pacing Cup for the 37th time. A winner of the big race five times (with Village Kid in 1986, 1988 and 1989, Hilarion Star in 1994 and Saab in 1999) Lewis will be in the sulky behind speedy New Zealand-bred five-year-old Bill Haley, who is prepared by his wife Debra. Bill Haley is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line and should be prominent throughout. He possesses a powerful finishing burst and is in top form. He started from the No. 1 barrier in the Fremantle Cup and was fifth, three back on the pegs at the bell, before running home fast, out wide, to be third behind Caviar Star and Vampiro. He thundered home from last at the bell to win from Caviar Star over 2130m the previous week.   Ken Casellas

Gloucester Park Harness Racing vice-president Kevin Jeavons is a realist, but he has high expectations that Shockwave has the ability to buck considerable odds and win the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Jeavons, who races Shockwave in partnership with his son Kyle and Howard King, is hoping the stallion will become only the fifth four-year-old to win the prestigious Group 1 feature event in the 90-year history of the race. And he is also looking for Shockwave to break the stranglehold of New Zealand-bred pacers who have won 13 of the past 14 and 17 of the past 19 Fremantle Cups. Shockwave, bred by Kevin and Annette Charles and sold for $46,000 as a yearling, is one of three West Australian-bred pacers in the field for the 2536m Cup, the others being Handsandwheels and Vultan Tin. The only WA-bred pacer to have won the Fremantle Cup in the past quarter of a century is David Hercules, who led and beat Northview Punter in January 2015. “Whether a four-year-old can measure up and beat his more experienced rivals, that’s the question,” said Jeavons after Shockwave had drawn favourably at barrier No. 2 on the front line. “But I think he’s up to them; I wouldn’t start him if I didn’t think he was on the way up.” Shockwave, trained by Ryan Bell, will be driven by champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, who has won the Fremantle Cup a record eight times scoring with The Falcon Strike (2002 and 2003), Im Themightyquinn (2009-10-11), Im Victorious (2014), Beaudiene Boaz (2016) and Chicago Bull (2017). The Falcon Strike, Im Themightyquinn, Beaudiene Boaz and Chicago Bull are the only four-year-olds to have won the Fremantle Cup. Regarding tactics, Jeavons said he would leave Hall with making the decisions. “I think we’ll leave it to Gary to plan his tactics after seeing what eventuates out of the gate,” he said. “Gary has driven Shockwave eight times as a three-year-old for four wins and two thirds. Twice he led (from barrier five) and won (beating Eloquent Mach and Gee Jay Kay over 1730m and beating Robbie Easton and Eloquent Mach over 2130m). So, there’s nothing wrong with leading.” Shockwave has thrived since he stormed home from 11th at the bell to snatch a head victory over the pacemaker Patrickthepiranha in the 2536m $200,000 Golden Nugget four Fridays ago. He then impressed greatly in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra last Sunday week when he trailed the pacemaker Mighty Conqueror, surged to the front 420m from home and won by 2m from his talented rival after a scorching final 400m in 25.8sec. “We were hoping for a good, solid trial, like a race,” Jeavons explained. “And as it turned out, Shockwave and Mighty Conqueror had a good battle and they ran good time.” The toughest opponents to Shockwave loom large as the New Zealand-bred New South Wales performers My Field Marshal and Alta Orlando and the brilliant WA pacer Galactic Star, one of four runners from the outstanding Forrestdale training establishment of leading WA trainers Greg and Skye Bond. Galactic Star, to be driven by WA’s leading reinsman Ryan Warwick from barrier No. 10 (inside of the back line), is in peak form and gave a superb performance in the 1730m Village Kid Sprint last Friday week when he started from the outside of the back line, was seventh at the bell and unleashed a withering finishing burst, out five wide on the home turn, to be an eye-catching third behind stablemate Vampiro and the pacemaker Herrick Roosevelt. Two starts before that, Galactic Star raced in the breeze for 1150m before taking the lead in the home straight and winning from Vultan Tin and Ana Malak. Galactic Star, prepared by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, has amassed $488,947 in stakes from 26 wins (four in New Zealand, two in New South Wales, one in Victoria and 19 from 46 starts in WA). He also started from the inside of the back line in last year’s Fremantle Cup when Warwick got him off the pegs immediately after the start. He then raced in eighth position before sustaining a powerful three-wide burst to finish a half-length second to My Field Marshal.  Skye Bond was eloquent in her succinct appraisal of Galactic Star’s prospects on Friday night, saying: “He has proven himself at this level and all his runs back (after a spell) have been fantastic.” The Bonds will also be represented by Ana Malak (Michael Grantham, barrier seven), Vampiro (Colin Brown, barrier nine) and El Jacko (Dylan Egerton-Green, barrier 11). El Jacko also started from barrier 11 in last year’s Fremantle Cup when he raced in sixth place, three back on the pegs, and was hopelessly blocked for a run when an unlucky seventh behind My Field Marshal. He is a brilliant sit-sprinter and capable of causing an upset. Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr has prepared a record eight winners of the Fremantle Cup, and without injured stable stars Chicago Bull and Major Trojan he will be pinning his hopes on Caviar Star (Stuart McDonald, barrier three) and Herrick Roosevelt (Maddison Brown, barrier eight).     “It looks a very even field in which I think Galactic Star is the best horse, with My Field Marshal a bit suspect over this journey and Shockwave facing a task at his first appearance in top company,” Hall said. “Caviar Star did all the work in the race and was brave in defeat when second to Bill Haley last week. “Obviously, Caviar Star is not the best horse in the race, but he’s very tough and never runs a bad race. I think he’s equal to most of the horses in the race. Herrick Roosevelt did a fine job, racing wide in the last lap and finishing third behind Bill Haley. He has had a lot of injuries and hardly ever runs a bad race.” McDonald is upbeat about Caviar Star’s prospects, saying: “I know he’s good enough to be in this grade. He ran fast time over 2130m last week and the longer trip (2536m) this week will suit him down to the ground.” The Debra Lewis-trained five-year-old Bill Haley bounced back to his best form last Friday night when he sprinted home strongly from tenth and last the bell to win from Caviar Star and his owners are delighted at drawing the coveted No. 1 barrier. Champion reinsman Chris Lewis is sure to take full advantage of the draw and the gelding’s excellent gate speed. My Field Marshal, trained by Tim Butt and to be handled by his brother Anthony, has drawn barrier No. 4 and has bright prospects of repeating his all-the-way victory (from barrier two) in last year’s Fremantle Cup after setting the pace and winning the Village Kid Sprint at his previous outing. My Field Marshall has raced superbly at his two starts last month after resuming racing after a nine-month absence. He reappeared in a group 3 2300m Free-For-All at Menangle on December 14 when he started from the outside barrier (No. 10) and raced in ninth position before charging home to finish second to Alta Orlando. Then, on December 26 Mr Field Marshal contested the group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial over 2790m at Bathurst when he started from the outside of the back line and was in 11th position when he started a three-wide move at the bell. His run was followed by Alta Orlando, who finished strongly to win from Our Uncle Sam, with My Field Marshal a close-up fourth. There was a significant omen for the Butt brothers when they combined to score a thrilling last-stride debut victory for four-year-old Surreal in 1.53.6 over 1609m at Menangle on Tuesday afternoon. Surreal is a full-brother to My Field Marshal, who has raced 66 times for 26 wins, 22 placings and $1,373,612 in stakes. Also, at Menangle on Tuesday trainer Craig Cross and reinsman Luke McCarthy joined forces to win with 9/2 chance Flingandwingit. Cross and McCarthy have high hopes that eight-year-old Alta Orlando will complete a winning hat-trick when he starts from barrier No. 5 on the front line in the Fremantle Cup.   Ken Casellas

Outstanding fillies Double Expresso and Tiffany Rose should provide one of the highlights at Gloucester Park on Friday night when they clash in the 2130m Retravision.com.au Pace. The New Zealand-bred Tiffany Rose, trained by Mike Reed and to be handled by Michael Grantham, will start from the outside barrier (No. 9) in a field of nine as she attempts to stretch her winning sequence to six after winning at her first five starts in Western Australia by an average margin of 10.5 metres. The West Australian-bred Double Expresso, prepared by Ross Olivieri and to be driven by Chris Lewis, will start out wide at barrier eight at her second appearance after an absence of six months. She resumed in the Group 3 Coulson final on New Year’s Eve when pitted against ten older and more experienced mares. From barrier six, she quickly slotted into the one-out, one-back position and fought on doggedly to be third behind the five-year-old pacemaker Vivere Damore, who dashed over the final 800m in 56.8sec. She was gallant in defeat and should have derived great benefit from the first-up outing. That was Double Expresso’s first appearance since she set the pace from barrier two and scored a convincing victory over Some Copper Beach in the 2130m $100,000 Group 1 Westbred Classic for two-year-old fillies. She was most impressive in scoring easy victories at her first five starts in a race before the winning sequence was broken when she finished third behind smart colts Jaspervellabeach and Secret Operation in the Group 2 Champagne Classic late last April. Double Expresso now has the ideal chance to end Tiffany Rose’s winning sequence of five. Tiffany Rose, who raced eight times in New Zealand as a two-year-old for four seconds, three thirds and one fourth placing, has not been extended in generally modest company in WA. She is a versatile pacer with a sparkling turn of speed. At her most recent appearance, against moderate company over 2190m at Northam on December 21, she was last in a field of 12 at the bell before quickly putting paid to the opposition and winning by almost five lengths from Yankee Boots. Six of Tiffany Rose and Double Expresso’s seven rivals this week have won races, with the Justin Prentice-trained Suing You winning at four of her eight starts. Colin Brown trains and drives the promising Farawayeyes, who is sure to be prominent from the No. 3 barrier. She won for the second time from eight starts when she set the pace and held on to score narrowly from smart geldings My Agera and Dissertation over 2130m at Gloucester Park three Mondays ago.   Brown also has bright prospects in the opening event, the 2130m Retravision 60 Day Price Promise Pace, with speedy four-year-old Its Rock And Roll, whose 26 starts have produced six wins, nine seconds and five thirds. Its Rock And Roll, who covered a lot of extra ground when a last-start second to Iconic Valor at Gloucester Park, will start from No. 4 barrier on the front line and the sparks are sure to fly in the early stages with speedy beginners La Suleiman and Grinny Vinnie ideally drawn at barriers two and three, respectively   Ken Casellas

Tough and talented mare Gotta Go Gabbana warmed up for her clash with the speedy Our Alfie Romeo in the $22,000 Retravision For All Your Back To School Needs Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night in fine style with an impressive win in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. After starting from barrier four, Gotta Go Gabbanna, with Chris Voak in the sulky, surged to the lead after 250m and was not extended in bowling along in front. She dashed over the final quarters in 27.3sec. and 28.1sec. and beat Sangue Reale by more than two lengths, rating 1.56.2. The Annie Belton-trained Gotta Go Gabbana will start from the outside in the field of eight on Friday night, with the Greg and Skye Bond-trained Our Alfie Romeo far better placed at the No. 3 barrier. Our Alfie Romeo, with a fine record of 17 wins, seven seconds and two thirds from 35 starts, will be popular with punters who will be looking for Ryan Warwick to use the mare’s splendid gate speed and dash to an early lead. Our Alfie Romeo should have too much pace to thwart the prospects of the enigmatic Tony Svilicich-trained Talkerup of setting the pace from the No. 1 barrier. If that is the case, Voak is likely to send Gotta Go Gabbana forward in a bid to apply considerable pressure on Our Alfie Romeo, who finished fifth behind Dracarys over 2130m last Friday night when she started from the back line and raced three wide early and then in the breeze on the outside of Miss Sangrial. Dracarys ran on strongly from fifth on the home turn to win from Miss Sangrial, with Our Alfie Romeo wilting to fifth. But there were excuses for Our Alfie Romeo’s defeat. She was at a disadvantage when one deafener failed to release. At her previous outing, Our Alfie Romeo led from barrier eight and won from stablemate Infinite Symbol, with Gotta Go Gabbana wilting from the breeze to finish a disappointing eighth. Two weeks before that, Gotta Go Gabbana led from the No. 1 barrier and won a 2536m event by two lengths from Our Alfie Romeo. Two starts before that, Our Alfie Romeo was untroubled to lead from barrier one and win by two lengths from Arma Indie over 2130m, with Gotta Go Gabbana (barrier nine) finishing fourth after racing three wide for much of the 2130m journey.   Ken Casellas

Locally trained horses Bill Haley and Shockwave have received a significant boost of winning Friday night’s Retravision-Fremantle Cup (2536m) at Gloucester Park following last night’s barrier draw. Bill Haley, who booked his spot in the race with a win in last week’s Free-For-All, drew barrier one, while last month’s Retravision-Golden Nugget winner Shockwave drew barrier two. Gary Hall Jnr, a winner of the race on eight previous occasions, reunites with Shockwave for the first time since the 3YO Sales Classic last March with regular driver Aiden De Campo teaming up with Handsandwheels. Chris Lewis, who has won the race six times, retains the drive on former Queenslander Bill Haley. Defending champion My Field Marshal, who is yet to land in Perth for the $300,000 event, drew barrier four and retained favouritism with TABtouch at $2.75. The other east coast representative in the race Alta Orlando drew barrier five and is the $4.40 second elect. Bill Haley ($4.60) and Shockwave ($5.50) are the leading local chances in the market. The training partnership of Greg and Skye Bond have four runners in the Group 1 race, after they had seven in it last year. The quartet had contrasting fortunes at the draw, where Galactic Star ($7.50) fared the best with barrier 10. Village Kid Sprint winner Vampiro will start from the outside of the front row in barrier nine, while Ana Malak will have the job in front of him from barrier seven. El Jacko, second in last year’s WA Pacing Cup, drew barrier 11 alongside Galactic Star on the second row. Meanwhile, Maddison Brown is set for one of the biggest moments in her short driving career to date when she teams up with the Gary Hall Snr-trained Herrick Roosevelt. Brown, whose father Colin won the race in 2006, will have her first drive in the Group 1 event on Friday night. Brown said she didn’t expect she would get the opportunity to drive in this year’s feature and was hopeful Herrick Roosevelt could overcome barrier eight. “It was a bit of a surprise,” she told TABradio. “Senior said he’d like to have me on, but obviously he had to speak to the owners. “From the draw we will definitely be going back and if the two horses from the east come over it probably helps our cause. “His form has been outstanding and I think that’s what got him into the race.” Caviar Star is the other Hall Snr-trained runner in the race and has drawn nicely in barrier three for reinsman Stuart McDonald. Friday night’s Fremantle Cup gets underway at 7.10.   Tim Walker

Six-year-old Back To the Beach has been unplaced at his past nine starts, but he makes strong appeal from the No. 1 barrier in the opening harness racing event, the 1730m Westral Pace, at Gloucester Park on Friday night. This will be his third start after a spell after an inconspicuous last as a $91 outsider behind Iceenothink after racing at the rear from his wide barrier at No. 8 and then seventh at $41 behind The Trilogy after starting from the outside of the back line and racing at the rear. Punters would be well advised to take into account Back To The Beach’s outstanding record as a frontrunner. The Ross Olivieri-trained gelding who will be driven by Chris Voak, has set the pace at ten of his 74 starts for eight wins, a third and a fifth placing. Voak is sure to take full advantage of the inside barrier by attempting an all-the-way victory. The Debra Lewis-trained Athabascan looms large as the main danger to Back To The Beach. Athabascan, to be driven by Jocelyn Young, is drawn favourably at No. 3 on the front line and will have many admirers after his strong third behind Zennart and Gee Jay Kay over 1730m last Friday night after he had worked hard in the breeze. Courage Tells, trained by Greg and Skye Bond and to be driven by Ryan Warwick, also has claims from barrier two. The 12-year-old, who has won at 36 of his 243 starts, possesses good gate speed. He began speedily from out wide at barrier eight three starts ago when he dashed to an early lead, set the pace and held on to win by a neck from Star Armbro over 2130m. Warwick has bright prospects in the third event, the Etch Coating Pace over 2130m, in which he will drive the highly-promising mare Our Alfie Romeo, who will start from barrier two on the back line. Our Alfie Romeo maintained her excellent form when she began brilliantly from the outside barrier (No. 9), sped to the front after 220m and was untroubled to win from stablemate Infinite Symbol and Miss Sangrial, rating 1.56 over 2130m. That took the five-year-old’s record to 34 starts for 17 wins, seven seconds and two thirds. Miss Sangrial (barrier one) and Dracarys (barrier two) loom as the main dangers to Our Alfie Romeo. The Bonds and Warwick will be looking for the brilliant, lightly-raced Mighty Conqueror to bounce back to form when he contests the Mondo Doro Smallgoods Pace over 2130m. The New Zealand-bred five-year-old, a winner at 15 of his 25 starts, faces a stern test from barrier eight in a field of ten. Mighty Conqueror was an impressive all-the-way winner over Motu Premier and Our Jimmy Johnstone over 2130m four starts ago but has had little luck when unplaced at his next four starts. He started from the back line in the Village Kid Sprint last Friday night when he raced in tenth position before dashing forward with a three-wide burst in the final circuit. He was challenging for the lead, three wide, 400m from home before breaking into a gallop soon afterwards and dropping back to finish eighth behind Vampiro. Mighty Conqueror then contested a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning when he set the pace and finished second to Golden Nugget winner Shockwave, with the final 400m being run in a blistering 25.8 sec.   Ken Casellas

Harness racing promising five-year-old Ideal Liner will be on trial for a start in the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup when he contests the $22,000 Retravision Pace over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. An impressive victory would enhance his prospects of being selected in the rich Group 1 feature events. Ideal Liner, prepared by master trainer Gary Hall Snr and to be driven by champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, has raced only 19 times for 11 wins and five placings and he looks extremely hard to beat on Friday night from the prized No. 1 barrier. “He’ll be nominated for the Cups,” said Hall Jnr. “Obviously, he will need to win on Friday night to have a chance of being chosen to race in the Cups. I think that the way he is going, he should win this week. He should hold up from barrier one and set the pace, and the 2536m will be in his favour. “He has shown gradual improvement at his five runs in this campaign. I thought he went pretty good last Friday night when he worked pretty hard to get to the breeze and then hold on for third behind Im Full of Excuses. He’s not a role player in the big ones (Cups), but he’s an earner with the right draws.” Two starts ago, last Friday week, Ideal Liner began from barrier seven and settled in last position in a field of nine before sustaining a strong three-wide burst from eighth at the bell to finish third behind Our Jimmy Johnstone and Whozideawasthis in a fast-run 1730m event. A week earlier he was an easy all-the-way winner from Simba Bromac over 2536m. Western Australia’s star pacers will be challenged in the major summer feature events at Gloucester Park by two outstanding horses from Sydney My Field Marshal and Alta Orlando. My Field Marshal, trained by Tim Butt, resumed racing after a lengthy spell with an excellent first-up second to Alta Orlando in a 2300m group 3 Free-For-All at Menangle on December 14. And then he finished fourth behind Alta Orlando in the group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on Boxing Day. My Field Marshal, who has had 66 starts for 26 wins, 22 placings and stakes of $1,373,612, shone at the Gloucester Park summer carnival 12 months ago when he won the Village Kid Sprint and the Fremantle Cup (beating Galactic Star and Vultan Tin) before finishing fourth behind Rocknroll Lincoln in the WA Pacing Cup. Luke McCarthy trains Alta Orlando, who has raced 69 times for 15 wins, 21 placings and $446,607 in prizemoney. He was an outstanding juvenile performer in New Zealand, winning two rich feature events at Addington as a two-year-old. After having 57 starts in New Zealand for 11 wins and 17 placings Alta Orlando was sent to Australia where he had three starts at Brisbane’s Albion Park in July this year for seconds to Self Assured in a group 3 Free-For-All and to Colt Thirty One in the group 1 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship over 2680m. Since then, he has won three times in New South Wales. Two starts ago he won a group 3 Free-For-All at Menangle, beating My Field Marshal and Tiger Tara, and at his latest appearance he won the Turnbull memorial at Bathurst. Ken Casellas

Ross Olivieri, eight-times leading harness racing trainer in Western Australia, has high hopes of breaking through for his first success in the WA Trotters Cup when the lightly-raced Mr Sundon contests the $50,000 Group 2 feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The New Zealand-bred Mr Sundon arrived in WA from Victoria five weeks ago and has created a tremendous impression with two runaway victories in 2130m mobile events at Gloucester Park with winning margins of ten lengths and six lengths. This week the big six-year-old gelding faces a moment of truth when he begins off the 10m mark in the 2503m standing-start event. Fourteen of his 33 starts have been in stands for five wins on debut as a two-year-old at Maryborough in August 2016 and at Terang, Ballarat, Melton and Horsham. But unruly behaviour (galloping at the start and breaking soon after the start) has led to several defeats and he is classified as an ODS performer (out of the draw in stands). However, Olivieri believes he has the secret of getting the gelding to begin smoothly. “He’s ODS, but for me he seems to handle the stand well,” Olivieri said. “I’ve given him jump-outs at home and at Byford, and he has performed without any problems. “There’s a little method you’ve got to use to get him away. Kerryn Manning’s stable (in Victoria) told us the method and we’ve tried it and I agree with them.” Champion reinsman Chris Lewis will be in the sulky again this week after guiding Mr Sundon to his two wins in WA. “He was so impressed with his win last Friday night that, ever the comedian, he asked me: ‘which Cup do you want to go in?’” This was a jocular suggestion that Mr Sundon had the ability to challenge the State’s best pacers in the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup. Lewis has tasted success in the Trotters Cup, winning the event with the Clive Dalton-trained Earl of Charity, the 5/4 favourite who romped to victory by 25m over Idle Maple in December 2015. However, Olivieri has not been successful at several attempts to win the State’s major event for square gaiters. In 2009, Apache Blue Jean, the 3/1 favourite, galloped hopelessly at the start and was distanced behind Compressor. A year later, with Lewis in the sulky, Apache Blue Jean finished second to Nacokee. The Olivieri-trained Paddy Cullighan (Peter Tilbrook) was a 20/1 chance who finished third behind Scusi Doctor in 2011 and in recent years Lewis and Olivieri have combined for thirds with Earl Or Nothing (the 11/8 favourite who was hampered by a flat tyre) and 9/4 chance Blue Sky Commander before Sunoflindenny, favourite at 7/4, finished fifth behind Sun of Anarchy 12 months ago. Lewis has also recorded a second with Nicky Eileen in the 2011 Trotters Cup and thirds behind Trappers Spirit (2008) and Nicky Eileen (2012). Mr Sundon was untroubled last Friday night to set the pace from barrier two in a 2130m mobile event and win by six lengths from Lord Liam, with smart quarters of the final mile in 30.1sec., 29.9sec., 29.3sec. and 29.5sec. His rate of 1.58.2 was just outside Cardigan Boko’s track record of 1.58.1. Cardigan Boko’s track record of 2.1.2 for a stand over 2503m also is in danger of being broken. The race record rate is 2.2.3, set by Earl of Charity in 2015. Mr Sundon is by former champion trotter, the North American-bred Sundon, who was a superstar in New Zealand. He won at each of his first 14 starts and at 17 of his first 18 starts. He is now widely regarded as the greatest trotting sire to have stood in Australasia.     Sundon, who died aged 29 in April 2015, is also the sire of Mr Sundon’s most serious rivals on Friday night Sun of Anarchy and Rock Tonight. The WA Trotters Cup was first run in January 2006 and the Justin Prentice-trained Sun of Anarchy will be attempting to become the first dual winner of the race. Sun of Anarchy, with Prentice in the sulky, started from 20m in last year’s Cup, settled in sixth place in Indian file before enjoying the one-out, one-back trail and running home strongly to beat the pacemaker Tenno Sho by a half-length. Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr will handle Sun of Anarchy this week when the ten-year-old and a veteran of 119 starts will be the lone backmarker off 60m. Hall has a strong association with Sun of Anarchy, having driven him 12 times for six wins, two seconds, two thirds, a fourth and an eleventh placing. Sun of Anarchy’s 28 starts in Western Australia have produced 13 wins and 11 placings. Nine of those 28 starts were in stands for six wins (one from 70m, three from 50m and one each from 20m and 10m.  The gelding also won eight times from a stand in Victoria. Sun of Anarchy certainly has the ability to defy the odds (having his first start for five months, starting off the back mark and being rated an ODS performer). “I don’t think the ODS will be a problem,” said Hall. “I think that part (getting away safely) will be all right. We know how good he is. He is a very good trotter, but he will need to be off the 60m handicap.  It is hard to see Mr Sundon being beaten if he is safe away.”  Hall is seeking his first success in the Trotters Cup after third placings behind Tuhimata Glass in 2013 and Prince Eddie in 2014.     Rock Tonight also has an ODS classification. He will start from the 30m mark and is sure to be prominent if he begins safely. Since working hard in the breeze and winning in grand fashion from Lord Liam at Pinjarra five starts ago, he has recorded a second and three thirds at Gloucester Park. Rock Tonight is prepared at Waroona by Nigel Johns and will be driven by Morgan Woodley, who combined to win the 2009 Trotters Cup with 13/4 chance Compressor. Johns will also be represented on Friday night with 12-year-old Diamond Geezer, a high-stepping brown gelding who has had 225 starts for 17 wins and 67 placings. Of the other runners, Tokyo Joe (Robbie Williams), Im Not Eyre (Jocelyn Young) and Ton Tine (Maddison Brown) are capable standing-start performers who are racing in sound form. By Ken Casellas

WHAT a shame Kiwis never got to see the “real” Colt Thirty One during the Inter Dominion in Auckland. Never really being comfortable on the track, luckless early runs, especially that gut-buster in the second round of heats all conspired to ruin his Auckland raid. But, remarkably, he returned home to win a Group 2 feature just a week after the last run of his Kiwi campaign. Despite having to fly back to Sydney then face a 10-hour road trip up to Brisbane, Colt Thirty One successfully defended the Group 2 Queensland Cup crown he won last year. He only arrived back at trainer-driver Grant Dixon’s stable on Thursday. Not only did he do it the hard way getting home, but also in the race last night (Saturday). Colt Thirty One, the $1.60 favourite, sat outside third favourite Glenferrie Hood with second elect Bad Billy stalking behind the leader. They went a 1min 54.7sec mile rate for the 2138m and zipped down the back in 28.1 sec, but Colt Thirty One was still able to zoom past the leader then hold-off Bad Billy, who had every possible chance, to win by a half-head. It was a mighty win on every level. “I’m super proud of the horse, it’s more about him than anything else, along with Dale (Hogan), who’s been with him every step of the way,” Dixon said. “He’ll have a week off now and then we’ll work out what’s next.” And it will now be interesting to see whether Dixon travels again for a race like the Hunter Cup on February 1 at Melton or waits for the Miracle Mile qualifiers at Menangle a few weeks later. Earlier in the night, Dixon also snared the quinella in another feature, one named after his father “The Bill Dixon”, with former All Stars’ three-year-old Virgil and the very exciting Governor Jujon. Dixon’s wife Trista, back driving just over three weeks after having their third child, Cooper, drove Virgil, who led throughout from the pole and just held-on by a nose in a blistering 1 min 52.3 sec mile rate for 1660m. The run of Governor Jujon to get so close from the back row was monstrous. Dixon will surely be tempted to tackle the Victoria Derby heats at Ballarat on January 18 with both of them. To cap the massive night, he Dixon-trained Kiwi import Wee Man Trouble, won the race he was specifically bought to chase, the Group 1 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trot. It gave Adam Sanderson his first Group 1 driving success. ______________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING four-year-old Patrickthepiranha is just the ideal Gloucester Park horse. His blazing gate speed and tractability are made for Perth’s tight circuit. Just a week after leading, copping pressure and running a fantastic second in WA’s biggest four-year-old race, the Group 1 Golden Nugget, the gelding landed a feature of his own. Trained and driven by veteran Colin Brown, Patrickthepiranha drew the pole, led easily and just held-on to win the $50,000 Group 2 Christmas Gift final. It was Brown’s sixth driving win in the feature, following Russley Rascal (2011) and Motu Treasure (2010) for trainer Greg Bond, Has The Answers (2002) for trainer Les Coulson, Julian Doe (1991) for trainer Suzanne Tolcon and his own horse, Simeon Bay (1988). Brown has been happy to watch from the sidelines with Dylan Egerton-Green doing the driving on Patrickthepiranha, but that changed last Friday because Egerton-Green had to drive his own horse Tyler Brett (seventh). ______________________________________________________________________________ IT was two years ago when Vultan Tin ran the race of his life for fourth in the Perth Inter Dominion final. He chased home Lazarus, Chicago Bull and Tiger Tara and beat home the likes of Lennytheshark, Soho Tribeca, San Carlo, Have Faith In Me and Galactic Star. Now you could argue he’s back to that sort of form, even in the twilight of his career as eight-year-old. “I don’t know if he’s ever raced better,” driver and unashamed fan Chris Voak said. “Last week he came and sat parked and won in 1 min 54 sec and change, so it gave me the confidence to put him straight into the race again (last Friday).” Despite being three-wide early and around to sit parked outside favourite Herrick Roosevelt, Vultan Tin was too strong, winning by 1.3m in a 1 min 57.2 sec for 2130m. It was an inspired drive, daring to “crush” the leader with a 27.2 sec third split and still holding-off noted sit-sprinter El Jacko to in a 28.5 sec closing split. There’s no doubt Vultan Tin will be a major player in the big Fremantle (January 10) and WA Pacing Cup (January 17) double. It will be interesting to see if trainer Phil Costello backs him up quickly again for next Friday’s Village Kid Sprint. Last Friday’s other free-for-all went to evergreen 11-year-old Our Jimmy Johnstone for Team Bond in a scorching 1min53.5sec mile rate for 1730m. Team Bond also won the mares’ feature on the night with the classy former Kiwi Our Alfie Romeo, who boasts a fantastic record since coming to WA of 26 starts for 15 wins, seven placings and earnings over $220,000. ______________________________________________________________________________ REIGNING Great Southern Star champion Dance Craze showed she was on target for a title defence with an impressive Melton win last night (Saturday). Anton Golino’s six-year-old was superbly driven by Glen Craven to beat a good field, including Tornado Valley, in the Group 3 Freestone Trotters Cup in a 1 min 59.4 sec mile rate for 2240m. As good as Dance Craze was, nothing went right for Tornado Valley, who settled near last, was held-up behind tiring horses at a crucial stage and then charged home from an impossible to finish just five metres from the winner in fifth spot. On the same card, Victoria Oaks hopeful Rockingwithsierra landed a plunge ($16 into $6) when she upset hot favoirite Iolanta in the Group 3 Gold Chalice. And excitement continues to build around unbeaten three-year-old trotter Keayang Ignite, who won his fourth race and his first at Group 1 level in the Vicbred Platinum Home Grown final. Trained by Paddy Lee and driven by his brother, Jason, the son of Angus Hall gaped his rivals by 17.3m in a  1 min 59.6 sec mile rate for 1720m, capped by a 27.9 sec closing quarter. ______________________________________________________________________________ JUST a few years back Tasmania’s Beautide won back-to-back Inter Dominions. Now Tassie has another buzz pacer, Ryley Major, but fans will have to wait a little longer to see him chasing big races on the mainland. The six-year-old son of Art Major took his record to 23 wins (and nine placings) from just 33 starts with an epic win off a 30m backmark and after looking spent on the home turn at Launceston last night (Saturday). He still paced a 1 min 57.6 sec mile rate in arguably his best win yet. Trainer-driver Rohan Hadley said he would stay at home for the Devonport Cup on February 2 rather than chase some country cups in Victoria in the short term.   Adam Hamilton

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