Punters will face a most interesting poser when they consider their investment in the opening event, the 2130m Pacing For Pink WA Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Five-year-old Shadow Play gelding Gambit is sure to be the centre of interest at his Australian debut and at his first appearance in a race for six months.
He is awkwardly drawn at the No. 7 barrier in the field of eight in which each of his seven rivals has won more races than his tally of six from 22 starts.
However, Gambit has had the experience of contesting five group events in New Zealand, the latest of which was at his most recent outing, in the Group 1 3200m Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park on December 31 last year.
He raced without cover in the first lap and then enjoyed the one-out, one-back trail before fading badly over the final 500m to finish tenth, 20 lengths behind the winner Amazing Dream, a brilliant mare who has earned $950,910 from her 20 wins from 30 starts. Finishing third in the Auckland Cup was the 2019 Miracle Mile winner Spankem, who has won 20 races and $1,568,494 in stakes.
Gambit provided a sample of his ability at his previous outing when he ran home strongly from seventh at the bell to finish a close third behind Triple Eight (1.55.4) and Mach Shard in a 2200m event at Alexandra Park in which the final quarters were run in 27.6sec. and 28.2sec.
Gambit’s most recent victory was eight starts ago when he started from the No. 1 barrier in a $45,000 group 2 Free-For-All over 2200m at Alexandra Park early in March 2020. He trailed the pacemaker Star Galleria before finishing fast along the sprint lane to beat Triple Eight by a nose at a 1.58.1 rate, with final sections of 29.5sec. and 27.1sec.
On the credit side, Gambit is now prepared by champion trainer Gary Hall Snr, who has a remarkable record of first-up successes. However, Hall sounded a word of caution, saying that Gambit was going into Friday night’s event without the benefit of a public trial and that the gelding was making his first appearance on the anti-clockwise Gloucester Park track after being used to racing in the opposite direction in New Zealand.
Gambit has had 20 starts on the Alexandra Park clockwise circuit and has raced only twice in an anti-clockwise direction for an unplaced effort off a back mark on the Rotorua grass track and for a win off 20m at Cambridge.
Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, fresh from a quartet of winners at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening (Broadbeach, $6.50; Renaissance Art, $4.80; Tricky Ric, $1.06; and Bettor Get It On, $3) is conservative in his thoughts about Gambit’s winning prospects, saying: “He is working alright and seems a nice sort of horse.
“When he works in front, he takes a bit of getting over, and when he comes from behind, he runs pretty good. I’d tread warily. But he will run a good race, I’ve no doubt.”
Gambit is owned by Auckland property developer Steve Waters, who recently sent five-year-old trotter Tricky Ric to Western Australia to be prepared by Hall Snr.
Tricky Ric made an impressive Australian debut at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night when started a hot favourite at $1.04. He dashed to the front after 450m and trotted faultlessly before winning by seven lengths from former South Australian trotter Goodtime Pe Rabbit.
Gambit’s chief rivals are likely to be Shanway, Pocket The Cash and Bettor Be Oscar, with Shanway (barrier two) and Pocket The Cash (barrier No. 1) expected to have a keen early duel for the lead.
Pocket The Cash (Lindsay Harper) was an easy all-the-way winner over 2536m three starts ago before trailing the pacemaker and using the sprint lane to win by a nose from Fanci A Dance over 2100m at Bunbury, and then raced wide from an outside barrier to finish a good fourth behind Blue Blazer over 2130m at Gloucester Park.
Shanway, having his first start for trainer-reinsman Kim Prentice, is racing in wonderful form and was an eye-catching second to Back In Twenty last Friday night when he thundered home, out very wide, from seventh at the bell. Shanway also is a smart frontrunner who has led before winning at six of his eleven wins in Australia.
Bettor Be Oscar, trained and driven by Aiden de Campo, will start from barrier four at his first run for four months. He has a losing sequence of 20, including ten placings, and is capable of a bold first-up showing.
by Ken Casellas