Prentice Aims to Lead

Exciting pacer Major Martini is a brilliant sit-sprinter who has thrilled harness racing fans with his dazzling finishing bursts, but his trainer-reinsman Justin Prentice is predicting the WA-bred gelding will be seen in a different role when he contests the $50,000 Intersport Slater Gartrell Western Gateway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Major Martini has drawn favourably at barrier two on the front line and Prentice is planning to burst straight to the front and attempt an all-the-way victory in the Group 2 feature event for three-year-olds.

“It’s a good draw and I’ll be doing everything I can to lead,” Prentice said. “He certainly can lead.

“Since winning the Sales Classic last Friday week his work has been good. Junior (Gary Hall Jnr) was really happy with that run and Major Martini worked well with Gardys Legacy this morning (Tuesday) and both went through the line really good. I’m happy with both of them.”

Gardys Legacy, who has had nine starts for Prentice for five wins, has drawn the coveted No. 1 barrier on the front line and he will be handled by Aiden de Campo.

Major Martini notched his fifth win from 12 starts when he began from the No. 2 barrier and raced in third position in an Indian file 2130m Sales Classic at his most recent outing. Hall eased the gelding off the pegs at the bell and he then raced outside the pacemaker Caveman before getting to the front 380m from home.

He careered away from his rivals in the home straight and won by five lengths from stablemate Manning, rating 1.56.6 after sprinting over the final quarters in 27sec. and 27.7sec. At his previous start Major Martini gave a sample of his sizzling sprinting ability when he thundered home, out four wide, from eleventh at the bell to finish second, a short half-head behind the winner Double Expresso, who rated 1.55.4 over the 2130m to set a race record.

Manning, a smart Sportswriter gelding who has won four races, will be Prentice’s third runner in Friday night’s 2536m race. He is in sound form, with excellent placings at his past two outings. He will start from the No. 7 barrier and will be driven by Chris Lewis, who has won the Western Gateway five times with Flashing Star (1993), Pro Armbro (1995), Saab (1998), Talladega (2001) and Alberta Retreat (2005).

Prentice has also been successful in the Western Gateway. He drove the John Graham-trained Lively Royce to victory in 2008 and  was in the sulky behind the Michael Brennan-trained Im Victorious, who started from barrier three and took the front after 700m before going on to win from Gracias Para Nada in April 2012.

Major Martini, by Art Major, is the only foal out of the Sutter Hanover mare Gaetana Nicole to have raced. Gaetana Nicole is a half-sister to Fake Embrace, who won at 11 of his 26 starts in WA before going to America where he won another 26 times. Prentice has happy memories of Fake Embrace, whom he drove to victory in an event for junior drivers at Gloucester Park in May 2006.

Adding considerable interest to Friday night’s race will be the first appearance in WA of Mach Da Vinci, a New Zealand-bred colt who is prepared by New Zealand trainer Paul Court and will be driven by 25-year-old New Zealand-born reinsman Jack Trainor, who has been highly successful in New South Wales in recent years.

Trainor has driven 56 winners this season and is in sixth place on the NSW drivers’ premiership table.

Mach Da Vinci faces a stern test from out wide at barrier eight. But he possesses excellent gate speed, like he showed at his latest outing, in a 1609m event at Menangle last Saturday week. He was unable to cross Ohoka Johnny and then made a determined bid for the lead after 200m. He got a half-length in front over the next 250m before Trainor restrained and took the sit behind the pacemaker.

Mach Da Vinci moved off the pegs 350m from home and got to a narrow lead 220m from the post before being swamped and he finished a gallant fourth behind Leonidas.

Two starts before that Mach Da Vinci led from barrier two and won by two lengths from Macheasy at a 1.54.7 rate over 2300m at Menangle when he dashed over the final 800m in 53.2sec. Eleven days before that Mach Da Vinci began brilliantly from out wide at barrier nine when he led and won over 1609m at Menangle with flying quarters of 27.3sec., 29.6sec., 27.1sec. and 27.3sec.

Howard Hughes, a handsome black colt prepared by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, fared badly in the random draw and will need a shade of luck from barrier No. 9.

The New Zealand-bred Howard Hughes, unraced as a two-year-old, won once from two starts in New Zealand and is unbeaten in five starts in WA, with an average winning margin of three lengths. Howard Hughes also started from the outside barrier in a 2130m race on Tuesday of last week. He settled down in sixth position in the one-wide line and began a three-wide move with 1050m to travel before getting to the front 150m from the finish and winning easily from the pacemaker Hes Royal Blue.

Ryan Warwick, who drives Howard Hughes, teamed with the Bond stable to win the Western Gateway with Mitch Maguire in 2017. Greg Bond also prepared Ohokas Bondy for his win in this event in 2011. The Bond stable also will be represented in this year’s classic by Manifestly Excesiv, who will be driven by Colin Brown from the inside of the back line.

The Kim Prentice-trained and driven Franco Ecuador is the least experienced runner in the race, with three stylish victories from his four starts. He will start from the outside of the back line is as capable of a bold showing.

Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, who has won the Western Gateway with Manageable in 1988 and Bechers Brook in 2018, will be pinning his faith this year on Valentines Brook (barrier three) and Caveman (six), while Michael Brennan has a high opinion of Withoutthetuh (barrier four) and Serpentine trainer Kyle Anderson has Al Guerroro (five) in peak form.

The only filly in the race is the Peter Anderson-trained Star Fromthepalace, who will be driven by Aldo Cortopassi from barrier two on the back line. Star Fromthepalace, who has won three races and been placed eight times from 19 starts, will be at long odds. The only fillies to have won in the 48-year history of the Western Gateway are Omista (1972), Via Vista (1981) and Whitbys Miss Penny (1991).