Day At The Track

Howlett makes a wise decision

06:29 PM 12 Jul 2017 NZST
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Jack Mac,Harness racing Chris Lewis, Harness racing
Jack Mac
Chris Lewis takes the drive on Jack Mac

Busselton trainer Barry Howlett is delighted that he rejected a tempting offer of $100,000 for Jack Mac four months ago and he is looking forward with confidence to the brilliant colt winning the $125,000 Choices Flooring Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Howlett picked out Jack Mac and bought him as a weanling in New Zealand. He races the two-year-old in partnership with his wife Lyn and their son Jim and he was seriously considering the big offer after Jack Mac had been unplaced at his first five starts in New Zealand when he earned just $7450.

However, Howlett pointed out that Jack Mac, trained by Brent Mangos, had been racing against the best two-year-olds in New Zealand and he is more than happy that the colt has developed into a star performer in Western Australia where he is unbeaten in five starts, earning $99,298. Howlett’s confidence grew considerably when the colt drew most favourably at barrier two on the front line in Friday night’s 2130m classic.

The colt will be driven by Chris Lewis, who holds the record in the 49-year history of the Golden Slipper with seven victories ---- with Pardon Me Boys (1987), Harry Gunn (1995), Saab (1997), Talladega (1999), The Jobs On (2004), Aikido Whitby (2006) and Western Cullen (2011).

Howlett is hopeful of winning the Golden Slipper for the second time. He is a part-owner of Mitch Maguire, who started at 3/1 on and made full use of the prized No. 1 barrier by leading all the way for trainers Greg and Skye Bond and reinsman Ryan Warwick and scoring an easy win over Major Pocket and El Barcelona in last year’s classic.

“I bought Mitch Maguire for $43,000 as a yearling in New Zealand, sold a share to Trevor Lindsay and gave Mangos a share,” Howlett said. “After Mitch Maguire had finished third in the Jewels we decided to sell him to Greg and Skye Bond. Then Greg asked if we would be interested in keeping a share. So, Trevor and I kept a ten per cent share. My wife wasn’t very happy when I sold Mitch Maguire and she strongly suggested that I shouldn’t sell Jack Mac. Therefore, I didn’t. Now I consider that Jack Mac goes better than Mitch Maguire.”

Lyn Howlett named Jack Mac after her late father Jack McGowan. And, remarkably, there is little to suggest in his breeding that he should be such a brilliant young pacer.

Jack Mac, by Mach Three, is the seventh foal out of Matavutu, whose first six foals had only a combined total of 62 starts for seven wins in minor races for combined earnings of $45,686. The only bright feature in Jack Mac’s breeding goes back a long way. His great, great granddam Wainoni Command’s first foal was Markovina (by Mark Lobell) who was a star of the 1970s, winning 35 races and being placed another 20 times from 97 starts. Trained and driven by Brian Gath, Markovina unwound a powerful finishing burst to win the 1978 Inter Dominion championship final at Moonee Valley.

“I was up north fishing a couple of years ago when I picked out two or three youngsters at the weanling sales in Auckland,” Howlett said. “I asked Brent to have a look at them and he liked the look of Jack Mac and bought him for me. Brent broke in Jack Mac and the colt always showed a bit." He impressed at his final start in New Zealand in finishing fifth behind the outstanding colt Alta Maestro in a 1700m heat of the New Zealand Sires Stakes at Cambridge on March 23 this year.

He started out wide at barrier seven and raced at the rear before running home solidly from eighth at the bell. The quarters were run in 27.9sec., 29.1sec., 28.3sec. and 28.3sec. and the winner rated 1.53.3, a national record for two-year-olds. Jack Mac has had to work hard and cover a lot of extra ground in four of his five WA starts, but he should be able to set the pace from the No. 2 barrier on Friday night. “He’s got a lot of early speed if you want to use it,” Howlett said. “He’s got speed and stamina and has also got a good kick when you want it.”

At his most recent start, at Gloucester Park last Saturday week, Jack Mac started from barrier five, raced three wide early and then in the breeze before wobbling and running out on the turn into the back straight in the final circuit. Lewis quickly got his mind back on the job and the colt burst to the front and was coasting when he won by two lengths from Antero at a 1.57.8 rate over 2130m. “He went to run off the track,” Howlett said. “He thought he had finished and wanted to pull up, something he had never done before. However, he went to the line well and still had the ear plugs in. Chris said he was travelling easily."

"We thought he was a little bit underdone, so we gave him a little light hit-out in a trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning.” He set the pace and was not extended in winning the trial by more than three lengths.

Ken Casellas

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