Reed is a Nugget Specialist

With two winners, three seconds and two thirds in the rich Golden Nugget Championship, astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed has been a major player in this time-honoured feature event for four-year-old pacers ever since Manageable finished third behind Eastern States invaders Sinbad Bay and Another Bart 30 years ago.

Reed is going into Friday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Retravision Golden Nugget with a two-pronged attack of the New Zealand-bred Gran Chico and the Victorian-bred Bletchley Park.

His main chance emerged as Gran Chico after the big Bettors Delight gelding drew favourably at barrier two on the front line in the testing 2536m classic.

Reed has engaged big-race specialist Kim Prentice to drive Gran Chico for the first time. Prentice, who trained and drove 3/1 chance Soho Tribeca to a convincing victory over Nathans Courage and Chicago Bull in the 2016 Golden Nugget, replaces Shannon Suvaljko, who is under suspension.

Prentice, no doubt, is hoping that he enjoys the same good fortune as he did when he was a late engagement to drive Im Themightyquinn in the 2011 WA Pacing Cup, replacing the suspended Gary Hall Jnr. Im Themightyquinn stormed to a brilliant victory over Mysta Magical Mach and Ima Spicey Lombo.

Gran Chico, purchased in New Zealand two months ago by Jim and Wilma Giumelli for what is understood to be the second-highest price paid for a New Zealand pacer imported to Western Australia (behind the $500,000 outlaid to buy Alta Christiano in 2013).

A substantial outlay to purchase a pacer does not guarantee great successes but Gran Chico is a redoubtable stayer with wonderful ability. The 2536m of the Nugget will test the 12 runners, who have chalked up 107 wins.

Gran Chico revealed his staying potential in New Zealand, when in his final appearance there, he finished an excellent fourth behind champion Chase Auckland in the 3000m Methven Cup on October 13, nine days after an impressive first-up victory over 1980m at Addington. At his previous start, four months earlier, Gran Chico finished a splendid second in the group 1 $150,000 Emerald at Addington.

In the 1980m Emerald, Gran Chico started out wide at barrier seven and was 12th (and last) at the bell, ten lengths from the leader before he sustained a spirited three-wide burst to finish second to Jesse Duke.

Gran Chico made his WA debut against modest company in a 2130m event at Gloucester Park on November 15. After settling in fifth position he dashed to the front after 500m and was not extended in winning by a length from Dominate The Dojo after final quarters of 28.3sec. and 27.7sec. 

Then he started from barrier two in the Group 1 Simmonds Steel Classic over 2130m last Friday week when he settled in fourth place and was shuffled back to sixth at the bell before finishing solidly, out six wide, to be a well-beaten sixth behind Sangue Reale. He is sure to have derived great benefit from that performance.

Gran Chico possesses good gate speed but is unlikely to be able to wrest the early lead from speedy beginner and smart frontrunner Patrickthepiranha, who will be handled by Dylan Egerton-Green for trainer Colin Brown and looks certain to set the pace.

Patrickthepiranha has started from the No. 1 barrier twice when he led and won the Caduceus Club Classic from Eloquent Mach and Gee Jay Kay, rating 1.56.1 over 2130m last February and when a month later he led and faded to sixth behind Eloquent Mach in the 2536m Western Gateway Classic. Therefore, there is a query over his strength to run a solid 2536m journey.

Bletchley Park is a solid stayer whose three attempts over 2536m have produced a win and a second to Major Trojan in the WA Derby last April. A winner at ten of his 21 starts, Bletchley Park will start from barrier six on the front line with Michael Grantham in the sulky.

Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell, who was a part-owner of 2008 Golden Nugget winner Schinzig Buller, will be hoping for a change of luck for Shockwave, a winner and placegetter over 2536m.

Shockwave, who finished powerfully to cross the finishing post in first place in the 2130m Simmonds Steel Classic last Friday week before being relegated to second after a successful protest, has the class to overcome the disadvantage of starting from the outside of the back line.

Aiden de Campo will be fit to drive Shockwave despite suffering bruised ribs when he was struck by a back-line runner after his drive, The Kraken, galloped at the start in a stand at Narrogin on Tuesday night. He bounced back in style in the following event by landing 7/1 chance Walsh a winner after receiving a miracle inside passage in the closing stages after the pacemaker Our Mandingo broke into a gallop in front of him. It could well be a lucky omen. Walsh is raced in the same interests as those who own Shockwave.

Sangue Reale (Chris Voak) has excellent prospects of giving trainer Michael Brennan a second win in the Golden Nugget after the win of Im Victorious in 2012. Sangue Reale, who charged home from fifth at the 400m to finish a half-head behind Shockwave last Friday week, is nicely drawn on the inside of the back line and should enjoy a perfect passage behind the likely pacemaker Patrickthepiranha.

Theo Aviator, trained and driven by Aldo Cortopassi, is in top form after winning the group 2 Four-Year-Old Championship from Sangue Reale and Shockwave two starts ago and then finishing strongly to be third behind those two pacers. Theo Aviator should enjoy a good run after starting from the No. 2 barrier on the back line.

Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who had the distinction of preparing the first five placegetters (Ana Malak, Mighty Conqueror, Fizzing, Bright Diamond and Bettor Aim) in the Nugget last season, will be pinning their faith on the inexperienced but highly-promising Taroona Bromac, who will be driven by Ryan Warwick from barrier five. Taroona Bromac has won at nine of his 11 starts and is capable of surprising.

Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr has won the Nugget with The Gold Ace (2011) and Beaudiene Boaz (2015) and will be represented by Eloquent Mach (Stuart McDonald) and Robbie Easton (Gary Hall Jnr). Eloquent Mach appeals as the better of the Hall runners. He charged home from 11th at the bell when fourth behind Sangue Reale last Friday week and has won over 2503m, 2536m and 3309m.

For the record, Reed has won the Golden Nugget with Tricky Vic (2002) and Libertybelle Midfrew (2014) and has recorded seconds with Rich And Spoilt (2000), Kiwi Legend (2015) and Maczaffair (2017) and thirds with Manageable (1989) and Astra Nom McCool (2001).