Olivieri Aims for 28th Group 1 Triumph
Outstanding trainer Ross Olivieri is bubbling with confidence that veteran square gaiter Sunoflindenny will give him his first Group 1 success for seven and a half years by overcoming a 20m handicap and proving the master of his 11 rivals in the $50,000 WA Trotters Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Olivieri, an eight-time premiership trainer in Western Australia and the fourth most successful trainer in the history of WA harness racing (behind Gary Hall Snr, Trevor Warwick and Fred Kersley Jnr), said: “Sunoflindenny is a second-to-none chance; he’s good at the stand and is the one to beat.”
Sunoflindenny, a New Zealand-bred nine-year-old, will again be handled by champion reinsman Chris Lewis, who has combined with Olivieri in 21 of the trainer’s 27 Group 1 triumphs, including his most recent Group 1 victory with Western Cullen on debut in the Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park in July 2011.
Olivieri has yet to taste success in the WA Trotters Cup which was first run 13 years ago. Lewis drove the Clive Dalton-trained 5/4 favourite Earl of Charity to a runaway victory in the Cup just over three years ago. In the most recent Cup, Lewis drove the Olivieri-trained Blue Sky Commander into third place behind the pacemaking Itsgettingcalder, and the combination also finished second to Nacokee with Apache Blue Jean in January 2010 and third behind Enjoy A Coldie in January 2015 with the 11/8 favourite Earl Or Nothing, who was hampered by a flat sulky tyre.
Sunoflindenny, who is raced by Merv Butterworth’s racing syndicate, is in sparkling form, scoring stylish victories at each of his three appearances after resuming from a spell. He has reinforced his reputation as a foolproof beginner in stands and has relished the role of pacemaker in those three victories after dashing to the front soon after the start.
He was an easy first-up winner from Lightning Calder and Tenno Sho over 2503m at Bunbury on November 17 before smart victories over Rocknroll Baby and Lightning Calder over the same distance at Gloucester Park and by four lengths over Ton Tine and Balmoral Boy over 2631m at Pinjarra.
On Friday night Sunoflindenny, who has had 71 starts for 13 wins and 24 placings, will share the 20m back mark with Sun of Anarchy, Lightning Calder, Balmoral Boy and Diamond Geezer.
His most serious rival appears certain to be Sun of Anarchy, who is prepared at Boyanup by his driver Justin Prentice, who made the most of an untimely suspension imposed on trainer Shannon Suvaljko to guide Scusi Doctor (backed from 7/1 to 3/1) to a one-length win over the pacemaker, the Merv Jupp-trained 2/1 favourite Nicky Eileen who was driven by Lewis.
Sun of Anarchy, like Sunoflindenny a New Zealand-bred nine-year-old by super sire Sundon, is also in excellent form, with his impressive victory in a 2100m mobile event at Bunbury on December 18 improving his record to 105 starts for 20 wins, 39 placings and stakes of $180,496.
He managed just three thirds from 20 starts as a three and four-year-old in New Zealand before racing 70 times in Victoria for 15 wins (eight in stands) and 29 placings. He has had 14 starts in Western Australia for five wins (four in stands) and seven placings.
Prentice prepares Sun of Anarchy for leviathan New Zealand owner Trevor Casey, who bred the gelding, who is out of Niamey, who has also produced Pocaro (42 starts for 13 wins, 11 placings and $232,773) and Daenerys Targaryen (43 starts for 15 wins, 14 placings and $143,723).
Casey also bred and raced champion trotter Stent, a winner of ten Group 1 events in a 70-start career of 30 wins, 25 placings and $1,130,406 in prizemoney. He also was a part-owner of superstar pacer Lazarus, a dual New Zealand Cup winner and winner of the Interdominion championship at Gloucester Park in December 2017.
Another of Casey’s pacers was Our Sky Major, who has been retired after earning $796,486 from 15 wins and 16 placings in a 52-start career, which included five group 1 feature wins, highlighted by his victory over Bling It On in the 2015 Chariots of Fire at Menangle. Prentice trained Our Sky Major for a win and two placings in a brief seven-start campaign in Western Australia in 2016.
Wundowie trainer Bruce Stanley has two runners, Lightning Calder and The Male Model, in Friday night’s Cup. He will drive the ultra-consistent Lightning Calder off 20m and he has engaged Michael Grantham to handle The Male Model, who will start off the 10m mark.
Lightning Calder simply does not know how to perform below par and cannot be underestimated. The eight-year-old’s past 18 starts have produced seven wins, four seconds, two thirds and five fourths. Stanley trained and drove 20/1 chance Dance To Victory for a surprise win over Smooth Criminal in the 2008 Trotters Cup.
The Tonia Stampalia-trained Balmoral Boy warmed up for the big race with a decisive victory over Tenno Sho and Lightning Calder in a 2130m mobile trot at Gloucester Park on Monday night.
The oldest runner is 11-year-old Nigel Johns-trained Diamond Geezer, who will begin off the 20m mark with Morgan Woodley in the sulky for the gelding’s 181st start. Woodley drove Diamond Geezer when he finished second to Enjoy A Coldie in the Cup in January 2015. Enjoy A Coldie was trained and driven by Nathan Turvey, who will be hoping for another success this week with the Victorian-bred Tenno Sho, whose five starts in his current campaign have produced two wins, two seconds and a third placing.