Now, it's up to Major Martini
Fifteen years ago, Glen Mortimer cheered excitedly as 8/1 chance Fake Embrace stormed home with a three-wide burst from eighth at the bell to finish second to The Jobs On in the 2004 Golden Slipper Stakes.
And at Gloucester Park on Saturday night Mortimer hopes to go one better and win the $125,000 Choices Flooring Golden Slipper with Fake Embrace’s close relation, Major Martini.
Mortimer was a part-owner of Fake Embrace and he is among a host of harness racing enthusiasts who own the brilliant Major Martini, who, like Fake Embrace was bred by leading West Australian breeder Steve Johnson.
Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr has given punters a strong lead by electing to drive the Justin Prentice-trained Major Martini in preference to stylish stablemate Aristocratic Star, a talented colt he has handled at each of his past five starts for Prentice for an all-the-way victory two starts ago and two seconds and two thirds.
Prentice was in the sulky when he brought 7/1 chance Major Martini home with a dazzling late burst of speed from the one-out, one-back trail to win the Group 1 Westbred Classic from the pacemaker and $1.65 favourite Aristocratic Star on June 28.
Prentice holds a powerful hand in this week’s Group 1 classic. He will be represented by Aristocratic Star, Major Martini and Manning. A win by any one of the three pacers would come as a wonderful present for Prentice, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Friday this week.
Manning, who has drawn awkwardly out wide at barrier seven, will be handled for the first time by Stuart McDonald, who replaces champion reinsman Chris Lewis, who has driven the gelding at his past five starts for two wins, including a fast-finishing victory over Aristocratic Star in the group 1 Pearl Classic two starts ago.
Prentice has engaged Lewis to drive the bold-striding Aristocratic Star, will start from the No. 5 barrier on the front line in the 2130m feature event. Lewis, who drove The Jobs On to victory in the 2004 Golden Slipper, has won the classic a record eight times, with his other winners being Pardon Me Boys (1987), Harry Gunn (1995), Saab (1997), Talladega (1999), Aikido Whitby (2006), Western Cullen (2011) and Jack Mac (2017).
Prentice has yet to taste success in the Golden Slipper, with his closest effort being with 5/4 favourite Major Reality, a filly he trained and drove into third place behind Beaudiene Boaz and Mister Ardee in 2014. That remains as Hall’s only win in the Slipper.
Fake Embrace was the only runner off the back line in the 2004 Golden Slipper when he gave one of his finest performances in his two-year-old season of five starts for three wins, which included victory in the Sales Classic for colts and geldings. Fake Embrace had 26 starts in Western Australia for 11 wins before continuing his career in America, where he retired with a record of 178 starts for 37 wins, 40 placings and $240,249 in prizemoney.
He was out of unraced Victorian mare Hold Tight, whose unraced daughter Gaetana Nicole (by American stallion Sutter Hanover) produced Major Martini, a $44,000 yearling who has now earned $132,117 from three wins and two thirds from six starts.
Major Martini, by Art Major, will start from barrier two on the back line on Saturday night and Hall will be anxious to quickly position the gelding into a prominent position in the one-wide line.
Coolup trainer Kristy Elson holds a strong hand, with Jaspervellabeach starting from the coveted No. 1 barrier on the front line and Secret Operation at barrier six.
Nathan Turvey will handle Jaspervellabeach, a highly-promising colt he has driven at each of his five starts for three wins, a second and a last-start first-up fifth. The colt possesses excellent gate speed and Turvey is sure to attempt an all-the-way win.
Elson is keen to emulate the deeds of her father Gary, who won the Slipper with Class of Tara in 2013 and Sprinter in 2015. He also prepared Mister Ardee when that pacer finished second to Beaudiene Boaz in the 2014 Slipper.
Turvey scored a brilliant victory with Sprinter in 2015 when the gelding, an 11/1 chance from barrier six was 11th at the bell and charged home to beat the pacemaker Dodolicious by just under two lengths.
Greg and Skye Bond trained Dodolicious and they won the Slipper in 2016 when Ryan Warwick drove 3/1 on favourite Mitch Maguire to an all-the-way win from barrier No. 1, beating Major Pocket (Turvey) and El Barcelona (Hall). A year later Turvey again finished second in the Slipper when Cott Beach (8/1) found the 10/1 on favourite Jack Mac far too speedy. Dodolicious and Cott Beach are the closest a filly has goner to winning the Golden Slipper in recent years.
Greg Bond prepared Ohokas Bondy when Colin Brown drove him to victory in the 20190 Golden Slipper, and Warwick was successful behind Spirit of Navajo in 2005. Warwick will drive the Bond-trained Poisedtopounce in Saturday night’s classic. The colt, who finished strongly to win from Bee Jays Boy and Power And Grace on Friday of last week, will be tested from the outside barrier at No. 9.
Fillies face a tough task in the Slipper which was first run in 1968 when Vince Chalker trained and drove Sordice to victory over Echo’s First and Hill Oro. Sordice was the first of eight fillies to win the big race, with the others being Omista (1971), Via Vista (1980), Mazzini Magic (1988), Whitbys Miss Penny (1990), Whitbys Merit (1993), Spirit of Navajo (2005) and Arma Xpress (2012).
Three fillies Star Fromthepalace (barrier two), Advance Your Dream (three) and Some Copper Beach (four) will line up in this year’s Slipper, but are sure to be severely tested by the colts and geldings.