Olivieri Seeks First Trotters Cup

Ross Olivieri, eight-times leading trainer in Western Australia, has high hopes of breaking through for his first success in the WA Trotters Cup when the lightly-raced Mr Sundon contests the $50,000 Group 2 feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The New Zealand-bred Mr Sundon arrived in WA from Victoria five weeks ago and has created a tremendous impression with two runaway victories in 2130m mobile events at Gloucester Park with winning margins of ten lengths and six lengths.

This week the big six-year-old gelding faces a moment of truth when he begins off the 10m mark in the 2503m standing-start event. Fourteen of his 33 starts have been in stands for five wins on debut as a two-year-old at Maryborough in August 2016 and at Terang, Ballarat, Melton and Horsham.

But unruly behaviour (galloping at the start and breaking soon after the start) has led to several defeats and he is classified as an ODS performer (out of the draw in stands).

However, Olivieri believes he has the secret of getting the gelding to begin smoothly. “He’s ODS, but for me he seems to handle the stand well,” Olivieri said. “I’ve given him jump-outs at home and at Byford, and he has performed without any problems.

“There’s a little method you’ve got to use to get him away. Kerryn Manning’s stable (in Victoria) told us the method and we’ve tried it and I agree with them.”

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis will be in the sulky again this week after guiding Mr Sundon to his two wins in WA. “He was so impressed with his win last Friday night that, ever the comedian, he asked me: ‘which Cup do you want to go in?’” This was a jocular suggestion that Mr Sundon had the ability to challenge the State’s best pacers in the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup.

Lewis has tasted success in the Trotters Cup, winning the event with the Clive Dalton-trained Earl of Charity, the 5/4 favourite who romped to victory by 25m over Idle Maple in December 2015.

However, Olivieri has not been successful at several attempts to win the State’s major event for square gaiters. In 2009, Apache Blue Jean, the 3/1 favourite, galloped hopelessly at the start and was distanced behind Compressor. A year later, with Lewis in the sulky, Apache Blue Jean finished second to Nacokee.

The Olivieri-trained Paddy Cullighan (Peter Tilbrook) was a 20/1 chance who finished third behind Scusi Doctor in 2011 and in recent years Lewis and Olivieri have combined for thirds with Earl Or Nothing (the 11/8 favourite who was hampered by a flat tyre) and 9/4 chance Blue Sky Commander before Sunoflindenny, favourite at 7/4, finished fifth behind Sun of Anarchy 12 months ago.

Lewis has also recorded a second with Nicky Eileen in the 2011 Trotters Cup and thirds behind Trappers Spirit (2008) and Nicky Eileen (2012).

Mr Sundon was untroubled last Friday night to set the pace from barrier two in a 2130m mobile event and win by six lengths from Lord Liam, with smart quarters of the final mile in 30.1sec., 29.9sec., 29.3sec. and 29.5sec. His rate of 1.58.2 was just outside Cardigan Boko’s track record of 1.58.1. Cardigan Boko’s track record of 2.1.2 for a stand over 2503m also is in danger of being broken. The race record rate is 2.2.3, set by Earl of Charity in 2015.

Mr Sundon is by former champion trotter, the North American-bred Sundon, who was a superstar in New Zealand. He won at each of his first 14 starts and at 17 of his first 18 starts. He is now widely regarded as the greatest trotting sire to have stood in Australasia.    

Sundon, who died aged 29 in April 2015, is also the sire of Mr Sundon’s most serious rivals on Friday night Sun of Anarchy and Rock Tonight.

The WA Trotters Cup was first run in January 2006 and the Justin Prentice-trained Sun of Anarchy will be attempting to become the first dual winner of the race. Sun of Anarchy, with Prentice in the sulky, started from 20m in last year’s Cup, settled in sixth place in Indian file before enjoying the one-out, one-back trail and running home strongly to beat the pacemaker Tenno Sho by a half-length.

Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr will handle Sun of Anarchy this week when the ten-year-old and a veteran of 119 starts will be the lone backmarker off 60m. Hall has a strong association with Sun of Anarchy, having driven him 12 times for six wins, two seconds, two thirds, a fourth and an eleventh placing.

Sun of Anarchy’s 28 starts in Western Australia have produced 13 wins and 11 placings. Nine of those 28 starts were in stands for six wins (one from 70m, three from 50m and one each from 20m and 10m.  The gelding also won eight times from a stand in Victoria.

Sun of Anarchy certainly has the ability to defy the odds (having his first start for five months, starting off the back mark and being rated an ODS performer).

“I don’t think the ODS will be a problem,” said Hall. “I think that part (getting away safely) will be all right. We know how good he is. He is a very good trotter, but he will need to be off the 60m handicap.  It is hard to see Mr Sundon being beaten if he is safe away.” 

Hall is seeking his first success in the Trotters Cup after third placings behind Tuhimata Glass in 2013 and Prince Eddie in 2014.    

Rock Tonight also has an ODS classification. He will start from the 30m mark and is sure to be prominent if he begins safely. Since working hard in the breeze and winning in grand fashion from Lord Liam at Pinjarra five starts ago, he has recorded a second and three thirds at Gloucester Park.

Rock Tonight is prepared at Waroona by Nigel Johns and will be driven by Morgan Woodley, who combined to win the 2009 Trotters Cup with 13/4 chance Compressor. Johns will also be represented on Friday night with 12-year-old Diamond Geezer, a high-stepping brown gelding who has had 225 starts for 17 wins and 67 placings.

Of the other runners, Tokyo Joe (Robbie Williams), Im Not Eyre (Jocelyn Young) and Ton Tine (Maddison Brown) are capable standing-start performers who are racing in sound form.