It's Handlebars Down for Tanaka Eagle

Ace reinsman Mark Reed will be reunited with veteran pacer Tanaka Eagle at Gloucester Park on Friday night and owner-trainer Reg Phillips is bubbling with confidence, declaring that the sprightly eight-year-old will win the Electrolux Pace and end a losing sequence of 17, which includes just one placing.

Reed, one of 29 drivers to have handled Tanaka Eagle during his 196-start career of 20 wins, 20 seconds, 18 thirds and stakes of $206,546, will join forces with the striking black gelding after a break of 903 days.

The previous time Reed was in the sulky behind Tanaka Eagle was when the son of Elsu finished third behind Three Bears at Gloucester Park on April 22, 2016. Since then the iron horse has raced 101 times, frequently running twice a week.

Phillips, who will celebrate his 76th birthday on Thursday of next week, was delighted when Tanaka Eagle drew the prized No. 1 barrier in Friday night’s 2130m event and he said his instruction to Reed would be: “Handlebars down and lead at all costs. He’s capable of running a sub-27sec. quarter and I’m sure he can run 1.56 off the front on Friday night when I don’t think he’ll be beaten.”

Reed, who has handled Tanaka Eagle just seven times for a win, a second and a third placing, followed the instructions of Phillips when he drive Tanaka Eagle (from barrier two) to an all-the-way victory at 7/1 over the 2/1 favourite Avalon Bromac at Gloucester Park in March 2016.

“Tanaka Eagle hasn’t had much luck lately and has ruined his chances a few times by galloping in stands,” Phillips said.

Tanaka Eagle galloped badly from the 10m mark in a 2503m standing-start event at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night and settled down 12 lengths behind the leader Smackwater Jack before making up a lot of ground and finishing fifth, four lengths from the winner Righteous Brother, in the six-horse field, with solid final quarters of 29.1sec. and 28.2sec.

“He loves racing twice a week,” Phillips said. “This means that I don’t need to give him track work. I’ve never had any serious problems with him; he’s never had a sore leg, blisters or ulcers. He’s had sore feet at times. He does not respond to working in heavy sand and he never goes in a heavy jog cart.

“I noticed he was for sale when he was racing in Kalgoorlie in 2014 and I bought a half-share in him, pretty cheap, $2500. I bought him on a Tuesday and he won up there the following Friday. He then won at his next three starts, two in Kalgoorlie and one in Albany (earning $21,459).

“About a year later I bought Tanaka Eagle outright for $5000 and $3000 out of his first city win. I’m a pensioner and he has become the family breadwinner.”

Last season, Tanaka Eagle raced 49 times for five wins, four placings and $62,845 in stakes. In the first five weeks of the current season the gelding has earned $6829 from his ten starts which have produced one placing, a second to Neighlor six starts ago.

Tanaka Eagle, by Elsu, is the only foal to have raced out of the unraced Badlands Hanover mare Miss Tanaka, whose half-brother Lochinver earned $284,300 from 23 wins and 31 placings from 139 starts. Lochinver won the group 3 Treuer Memorial at Bankstown in December 2014 and finished second to Franco Ledger in the $100,000 Group 1 Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All at Menangle in March 2015.