Unwanted Lord Liam is a Star

Twenty-one months ago, veteran trotter Lord Liam broke down with a recurrence of an old leg injury and Waroona trainer Bob Mellsop reluctantly decided to retire him.

Now Lord Liam is a bright-eyed and happy ten-year-old in the throes of a remarkable comeback and  is acclaimed as the State’s best square-gaiter who will be attempting to record his eighth win in succession when he contests the Community TAB Trot over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“Early last year Lord Liam went sore in a back leg,” Mellsop said. “It was an old suspensory injury and he’d had an operation on a cannon bone which had got infected. So, I retired him and de-registered him.

“I put him on Facebook, free for a good home. But I couldn’t find anyone who wanted him, and I refused to send him away to the happy hunting ground. He was such a great horse.

“I put him in a paddock for 12 months and then he looked so good that I eventually put him back in work and re-registered him and now he’s as sound as a bell.”

In his comeback preparation Lord Liam has had 16 starts for ten wins, four seconds, one third and one seventh for earnings of $65,097. This has boosted his record to 90 starts for 30 wins, 24 seconds, five thirds and $248,703 in stakemoney.

Lord Liam has drawn out wide at barrier eight in the field of nine in Friday night’s race but has the ability to overcome this distinct disadvantage. He has been handled in his past seven starts for seven wins by Maddison Brown, but will be driven this week by Deni Roberts, who has recovered from a fractured right big toe.

Brown was unavailable because she is in Hobart to watch the Australian Drivers’ Championship on Saturday night. Roberts has driven the Victorian-bred gelding once in a 2631m stand at Pinjarra 15 starts ago, on April 15 this year when he finished a half-length second to Mortician. On that occasion Lord Liam started from 50m, which in effect was a 30m handicap because there was no front or 10m line.

The closest Lord Liam has gone to be beaten at his past seven starts was at his latest outing, over 2185m at Pinjarra four Mondays ago when he defeated Lightning Calder by a head after working hard, three wide in the final circuit.

Lord Liam warmed up for this week’s assignment with a smart win in a 2116m standing-start trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning when he led early for the first 350m and then sat behind the pacemaker Rabchenko before finishing strongly to beat that pacer by a neck at a 2.2.1 rate, with final quarters of 29.5sec. and 29.3sec.

Lightning Calder, to be driven by Chris Voak for trainer Bruce Stanley, and Im Not Eyre, trained and driven by Jocelyn Young, loom large as Lord Liam’s main dangers. Lightning Calder, a winner of 26 races, will start from barrier seven. He started off 30m in a 2503m event last Friday night and came from the rear to race in the breeze throughout the final lap when a fighting third behind Im Not Eyre and the pacemaker Tenno Sho.

Four days before that race Im Not Eyre dashed to an early lead, set a solid pace and won from Upandgone and Tokyo Joe over 2185m at Pinjarra.

A newcomer to West Australian racing in Friday night’s race will be the eight-year-old chestnut gelding Rock Tonight, who is prepared by Nigel Johns and will be driven by Morgan Woodley from the outside barrier (No. 9).

The winner of three races in New Zealand and nine in Victoria, Rock Tonight has a losing sequence of 21. His stablemate Diamond Geezer (barrier six) is a sentimental favourite because of his jaunty high-stepping action. If he finishes in the top four his stake-earnings will go past the $200,000 mark. He has a losing sequence of 74, but he has notched 11 seconds and 16 thirds from those 74 outings.

Mellsop said that Lord Liam was thriving on racing. “As long as he is happy racing and is competitive, he’ll keep going,” he said. “I’ll retire him when he stops enjoying what he is doing. Veterinary surgeon Melanie McGregor will take him and give him a home when he retires.”

Lord Liam was bred by Richard and Pauline Matthews, who own a petroleum business in Victoria. Their first contact with Mellsop was when he put in an offer to purchase Bullion Bill 13 years ago. “They wouldn’t sell, but sent Bullion Bill over to me to train,” Mellsop said.

Bullion Bill had 23 starts for Mellsop for nine wins and five placings before being sold to America. Then three years ago Richard and Pauline Matthews sent Sammy Charles to Mellsop and the younger half-brother to Lord Liam thrived under Mellsop’s care, with 19 starts producing six wins and 11 placings.