Culpeka Overcomes Adversity

Rising star Culpeka has overcome problems and is poised to extend his winning sequence to six when he contests the Happy Chinese New Year Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The New Zealand-bred five-year-old will start from the inside of the back line and has the ability to overcome the tricky draw and beat his most serious rival, Bletchley Park, who will be having his first start for Bunbury trainer Stephen Reed.

Culpeka, trained at Busselton by Barry Howlett, arrived in WA in June 2018 after winning four times from 19 starts in New Zealand for Howlett, his wife Lyn and their son Jimmy.

But on arrival in WA it was discovered that Culpeka had bone chips in his hind legs, which required surgery. The operation was successful, but Culpeka had a bad reaction to anti-biotics and was laid low by constantly scouring for 12 months.

Another Howlett-owned pacer, Major Express, also had surgery to remove bone chips in a leg and also suffered from scouring which delayed his debut in WA for 16 months.

Finally, Howlett’s patient care was rewarded when Culpeka and Major Express were fit enough to resume their careers. Major Express reappeared at Bunbury last December when he broke and finished last. He has since won at each of his next three starts, twice at Bunbury and once at Pinjarra.

Culpeka, now a five-year-old, resumed after an 18-month absence when he finished a sound third to Its Rock And Roll and Shadow Roll at Pinjarra on December 2 last year. He has gone on to win at each of his next five starts by a total of 46.8 metres (an average margin of three lengths).

Howlett certainly has no regrets now that he refused substantial offers to sell Culpeka and Major Express before they left New Zealand in mid-2018.

Culpeka warmed up for his Gloucester Park assignment this week in fine style with a dazzling victory in the Albany Cup over 2690m last Saturday week. He charged home from tenth and last at the bell to win in effortless fashion by five lengths from Bettor Pack It.

Bletchley Park will be having his first start since he met with interference and broke and finished last behind Shockwave in the Golden Nugget Championship on December 13. His 22 starts for astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed have produced ten wins, four seconds, one third and $162,867 in stakes. He is now being prepared in Bunbury by Reed’s son Stephen.

Bletchley Park gave a sample of his wonderful ability when he finished second to Major Trojan in the WA Derby last April when he finished in front of several talented pacers, including Franco Edward, Shockwave, Patrickthepiranha, Eloquent Mach and Sangue Reale. He will start from barrier four on Friday night and will be handled by Michael Grantham. He will have many admirers.