Eagle Rox on the Comeback Trail

Former star juvenile pacer Eagle Rox will continue her comeback to racing when she contests the $50,000 WASBA Breeders Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night with a long-term goal of competing in the rich feature events for mares next summer.

Now an eight-year-old, Eagle Rox is awkwardly drawn at the No. 7 barrier on the front line in the 2130m event and breeder-owner-trainer Debra Lewis said that if she got the “right run” she was capable of winning.

“However, this is only her second run after an absence of 30 months and we’re not expecting anything of her,” she said. “If she had drawn barrier one, she probably would’ve given it a shake.

“She’ll only get better after her first-up win and long-term, hopefully, she’ll be able to contest the major races for mares in the summer.”

Eagle Rox made a triumphant return to racing after two and a half years when she scored an impressive victory in a C2/C6-class event over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Tuesday of last week. She started out wide from barrier eight and sprinted strongly, three wide, from eighth at the bell to hit the front 300m from home and go on and defeat Auctioneers Elsu and Bettor Boa at a 1.57.5 rate.

From barrier seven on Friday night, champion reinsman Chris Lewis is likely to be anxious to position Eagle Rox in the one-wide line and rely on her strong finishing sprint. Lewis holds the record of five wins in the WASBA Breeders Stakes, having scored with Tareena Bright (1985), Armbro Lucy (1993), Twinkle Paige (1997), Meggie Dear (2001) and Sheer Rocknroll (2017).

Eagle Rox, trained by Kim Prentice as a juvenile, won three races as a two-year-old in 2012, including the Group 1 $100,000 Diamond Classic. She was also placed in the Gold Bracelet and Golden Slipper Stakes.

A tendon injury has restricted Eagle Rox to just 22 starts for 12 wins, five seconds and two thirds for earnings of $168,028. She is a half-sister to another former outstanding mare Artemis Belle, who was retired with stakes of $359,559 from 19 wins and nine placings from 31 starts. As a two-year-old Artemis Belle won the Group 1 Sales Classic and the Group 3 Gold Bracelet before winning the Group 3 Dainty’s Daughter Classic and the Group 1 WA Oaks the following season.

A couple of years ago Debra Lewis decided that Eagle Rox’s future was as a broodmare. “So, we put her in foal and she had a beautiful filly foal (by American Ideal) last November,” she said. “But a few months later the filly was bitten by a snake and died. It was then that we decided to put Eagle Rox back into work.”

Many of the front-line mares in Friday night’s race possess good gate speed and there is a strong possibility that the sparks will fly early.

Mike Reed, trainer of Maczaffair, is supremely confident that the talented New Zealand-bred five-year-old has the necessary speed to cross from barrier No. 3 to the front and to set the pace and go on and win.

Maczaffair has rarely been defeated after setting the pace. She will again be handled by Shannon Suvaljko, who finished second behind the Reed-trained Foxy Dame in last year’s WASBA Breeders Stakes. Reed prepared Libertybelle Midfrew for her victory in the Breeders Stakes in 2015.

Gary Hall Jnr, who won this event with Ideal Alice in 2015, has given punters a good lead by choosing to drive Major Reality for Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice ahead of the Kevin Keys-trained Sarah Goody.

Major Reality, the highest-assessed mare in the field, with an M8 classification, is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line and Prentice is hopeful that she will begin swiftly and set the pace.

Major Reality, who has won at 21 of her 41 starts, rated 1.54.6 when she started from the back line and ran on from three back on the pegs to win the $30,000 Golden Girls Mile over 1684m at Pinjarra two starts ago. Then she started from the No. 7 barrier and raced at the rear throughout when seventh behind Vultan Tin over 2130m at Gloucester Park last Friday week.

Hall has handled Sarah Goody at her three outings since resuming from a spell and the mare has impressed with strong victories at Gloucester Park and Pinjarra before working hard early and then enjoying the one-out, one-back trail and finishing determinedly to be second to Eden Franco in the 2503m Race For Roses last Friday night.

Michael Grantham has recovered from a fractured right hand and is delighted to have gained the drive behind Sarah Goody, a winner at 13 of her 35 starts. Keys, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Thursday this week, has Sarah Goody at the peak of her powers.

Ace trainer-reinsman Colin Brown has a high opinion of Eden Franco, who will start from barrier two on the back line. The mare has wonderful potential and looks set to fight out the finish. Brown has won the Breeders Stakes with Sand Pebbles (2004), Montel (2008) and Little Big Sister (2010).

Brown has driven the speedy Ray Williams-trained Millview Sienna at her past three starts for two wins. Aldo Cortopassi has been engaged to drive Millview Sienna this week.