Third Time Lucky for Galactic Star
Greg and Skye Bond are the State’s pre-eminent trainers who will notch a remarkable achievement by having a record number of seven starters in the TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
They appear to have a stranglehold on the $450,000 Group 1 feature event to be decided over the testing long journey of 2936m and they agree that classy seven-year-old Galactic Star is their major hope, with five-year-old Mighty Conqueror their second best winning prospect.
The Bonds have won every major Group 1 event in the State, with the exception being the WA Pacing Cup in which they went close 12 months ago when El Jacko flew home along the pegs to finish a half-length second to the pacemaker Rocknroll Lincoln.
Galactic Star, owned by Skye Bond and Rob Gartrell, is awkwardly drawn on the inside of the back line, leaving leading reinsman Ryan Warwick with the gnawing problem of whether to follow stablemate Our Jimmy Johnstone, who has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier, or to make a spirited effort to ease Galactic Star off the pegs and into the one-wide line as soon as possible.
Galactic Star also started from the inside of the back line in the 2536m Fremantle Cup last Friday night and travelled strongly under lock and key in eighth position, four back on the pegs, before he hit a marker peg 250m from home and broke into a fierce gallop. He dropped back and finished last.
“Ryan said Galactic Star was just ‘travelling’ and would have proved to be very hard to beat last week if he had not struck the peg,” said Gartrell, who also is a part-owner of stablemates Our Jimmy Johnstone, Vampiro and Ana Malak.
“He’s a great horse and very dangerous. And the 2936m will be right up his alley.”
This will be Galactic Star’s third attempt at winning the WA Pacing Cup. A 40/1 chance, he galloped out from barrier three in the 2018 Cup, raced at the rear and was blocked for a clear passage in the final circuit when 11th behind Soho Tribeca.
Then, last year Galactic Star was a 4/1 chance from barrier seven when he raced three wide early before obtaining an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, and then wilting to finish 11th behind Rocknroll Lincoln.
“To have four runners in the Cup is a great thrill,” said Gartrell. “Our Jimmy Johnstone likes to lead; he loves the long trip and will be very competitive,” he said. “You don’t often draw No. 1 at Gloucester Park, so when you do, you’ve certainly got to do your best work.”
Our Jimmy Johnstone, an 11-year-old and veteran of 127 starts, will be handled by 21-year-old Bailey McDonough, the youngest driver in the race. If Our Jimmy Johnstone is successful, he will become the second oldest winner of the WA Pacing Cup behind Defiance, the 13-year-old gelding who was driven to victory by his trainer Bernie Cushing in the 1961 Cup.
Our Jimmy Johnstone showed his ability as a pacemaker when McDonough drove him to an all-the-way victory in the 2536m Brennan Memorial last September. He started from barrier four and raced in the one-out, one-back position when a sound fifth in last week’s Fremantle Cup which was won by Caviar Star who got up in the final couple of strides to beat the pacemaker Vampiro by a head.
This will be Our Jimmy Johnstone’s fourth appearance in a WA Pacing Cup. As a six-year-old he was a 6/1 chance as the Bond stable’s only runner in the 2015 Cup when he started from the inside of the back line and raced one-out and two-back before finishing a sound fourth behind My Hard Copy. From barrier six and a 16/1 chance in 2017, he raced wide in the middle stages and finished last behind Chicago Bull. In last year’s Cup he was a 125/1 outsider from barrier nine and raced one-out and two-back when a solid fifth behind Rocknroll Lincoln.
Vampiro, to be driven by Colin Brown, will again start from the outside barrier (No. 9) and Brown is likely to again use the six-year-old’s sparkling gate speed in a bid to set the pace.
“Skye has always been a big wrap for Vampiro,” Gartrell said. “He’s probably been a bit immature and has taken a while to come through. He’s getting better and better and last week he showed what he can do. He has that speed (at the start) and he’s tough. It will be interesting to see where we go from barrier nine this week. I think he has the speed to cross (to the front).”
Ana Malak was driven by Michael Grantham in last week’s Fremantle Cup when he started from barrier seven and was 11th at the bell before charging home along the pegs to be a close-up and eye-catching fourth behind Caviar Star. Nathan Turvey will drive Ana Malak from the No. 7 barrier this week, with Grantham being engaged to handle the Bond-trained Our Alfie Romeo, the only mare in the race.
Ana Malak, whose 11 wins from 23 starts include the Four-Year-Old Classic and Golden Nugget in late 2018, is being sought by American buyers. “This could be his swansong,” said Gartrell. “We have received quite a good offer and a decision hasn’t been made. You’ve got to be commercial in this industry. But if he wins the Cup, he probably won’t be up for sale.”
Our Alfie Romeo, a winner at 18 of her 36 starts, is favourably drawn at barrier No. 3 on the front line. But she faces a stern test against seasoned group 1 campaigners. The Pacing Cup has not been won by a mare over the past 48 years, with the most recent winner being the Les Marriott trained and driven Pyramus in 1972. Nineteen mares have won the big race in its 106-year history, with only four being successful over the past 73 years.
Letty Lind, a mare trained and driven by Charlie Fraser, rated 2.46.3 when she beat another mare, Heather Bells by ten lengths in the inaugural Cup at the WACA Ground in 1913.
Our Alfie Romeo warmed up for this week’s assignment in grand style when she began speedily from barrier three, set the pace, sprinted over the final quarters in 28.2sec. and 27.4sec. to win, unextended, by almost three lengths from Fake News at a 1.57.3 rate over 2130m last Friday night.
Dylan Egerton-Green has been booked to drive the richly talented Mighty Conqueror, a five-year-old who has raced only 26 times for 15 wins. The New Zealand-bred gelding will start from barrier five and looks set to fight out the finish. He has recovered from a bruised hoof which forced him to miss last week’s Fremantle Cup.
Warwick is a great admirer of Mighty Conqueror and after driving him to victory at Gloucester Park earlier this season he said: “His ability is scary. His weaponry is outstanding and every time I come off the track, I say to everyone that it is unreal what he can do. We haven’t had one like him for a while and he doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s pretty exciting.”
Egerton-Green has a wonderful association with Mighty Conqueror. He has driven him just twice for a third to Ana Malak and Ideal Liner in the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in November 2018 and for a nose second to Ana Malak in the $200,000 Golden Nugget the following month.
Shockwave, the beaten 9/4 favourite when sixth in last week’s Fremantle Cup, has drawn poorly at barrier eight on the front line, but has an exceptional turn of speed and is capable of a bold showing for trainer Ryan Bell and ace reinsman Gary Hall jnr.
Shockwave, winner of the Golden Nugget in mid-December, raced in eighth position in last week’s race before starting a three-wide move 900m from home. He moved to second at the 550m mark before wilting in the closing stages.
“When I watched the replay, his personal sections were off the charts,” said Bell. “Barrier eight this week is just a starting point. I’m pretty rapt with him and, with luck, he can play a big part this week.”