Brown Seeks First Mares Classic
In recent months Eden Franco and Maczaffair have stamped themselves as the best two pacing mares in Western Australia and the connections of those pacers and harness racing fans in general have been predicting a tantalising showdown between the two in the $125,000 Westral Mares Classic over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
But the result of the random barrier draw has clouded the issue and has revived the hopes of some of the other combatants, including the courageous Gotta Go Gabbana, the seasoned and well-performed veteran Tricky Styx and rising four-year-old stars Our Angel of Harlem and Lady De la Renta.
Eden Franco, trained and driven by the evergreen Colin Brown, and Maczaffair, prepared by the equally astute horseman Mike Reed, have clashed in races only four times with the honours shared two victories to each mare and two seconds to Eden Franco and two fourths to Maczaffair.
The barrier draw has thrown this week’s classic into the melting pot, with Eden Franco faring badly, drawn on the outside (No. 9) on the front line, while Maczaffair will start from the outside (barrier three) on the back line.
Brown has a high opinion of Eden Franco and is looking for a change of luck after Eden Franco started from the prized No. 1 barrier in the Mares Classic 12 months ago and was a strongly-supported 4/1 chance. She set a solid pace, but was swamped in the final 100 metres when she was at a distinct disadvantage when the deafeners failed to release. She finished fourth behind Ideal Alice, Ameretto and Quite A Delight.
Brown is hoping for his first success in the Mares Classic or its predecessor the Mares Mile. Three years ago, he drove $78.80 chance Jungle Jewell for Greg and Skye Bond when she surged home from ninth on the pegs at the bell, and sixth at the 100m, to finish second to the pacemaking Nike Franco and in 2010 he was third behind 10/9 on favourite Ima Spicey Lombo with Greg Bond’s Little Big Sister, who finished boldly from tenth at the bell.
Eden Franco’s part-owner Jim Currie was a part-owner and trainer of 10/1 tote chance Smoking Again, who set the pace from barrier three and won comfortably from the polemarker Country Change in the 2009 Mares Mile.
Eden Franco is generally considered simply as a frontrunner. But Brown does not agree with that, saying after driving the mare to a four-length victory over Alfa Queen in the 2130m Norms Daughter Classic last Friday week that she was quite versatile.
“Everybody thinks that she’s just a one-trick pony, but at home she can run very quick times when held up. She’s got high cruising speed on the track at home and runs 27-second quarters hard-held.”
Eden Franco started from barrier four in the Norms Daughter Classic and burst to the front after 250m. Maczaffair started from the inside of the back line and raced three back on the pegs in fifth position. She was badly blocked for a clear passage in the final stages and went to the line full of running to finish a most unlucky fourth.
Then, last Friday night Maczaffair was a 10/1 on favourite from the No. 1 barrier when she was not extended in setting the pace, sprinting over the final quarters in 28.2sec. and 27.8sec. and winning by 10m from Gotta Go Gabbana over 2130m.
Both Eden Franco and Maczaffair are capable over the 2536m journey. Eden Franco has won over 2600m and 2503m and Maczaffair has won twice and finished second three times over 2536m.
Tricky Styx, now in the Capel stables of Andrew de Campo, has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier and Aiden de Campo is sure to attempt to set the pace with the seven-year-old and will be hoping to keep all challengers at bay. This will be Tricky Styx’s third appearance in the Mares Classic. She started out wide at barrier nine and finished solidly from 11th at the bell to be fifth behind The Parade in 2016 and last year she began out wide at barrier eight and was always well back, finishing tenth behind Ideal Alice.
Four-year-old Our Angel of Harlem, a stablemate of Maczaffair, cannot be underestimated, even from the wide draw at No. 8. Her two runs since resuming from a spell have been encouraging and she will have the services of champion reinsman Chris Lewis, who has won the Mares Mile with Jilsander (2007) and Ima Spicey Lombo (2010).
Chris Voak, who set the pace with the Chris King-trained Leda McNally and won the Mares Classic from Famous Alchemist and Sensational Gabby in 2013, will be in the sulky behind the Annie Belton-trained Gotta Go Gabbana, who is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line.
Gotta Go Gabbana has impressed with her courageous efforts on the past two Friday nights when she had a tough run in the breeze before fighting on grandly for a third behind Eden Franco and a second to Maczaffair. Gotta Go Gabbana’s stablemate Lady De La Renta will be driven by Kim Prentice and she impressed at Gloucester Park last Tuesday week when she unwound a powerful finishing burst to win easily from Shes Artful and Jasmin Amal.