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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Skilful reinsman Kyle Harper was confident of an all-the-way victory with Blissfullabbey in the $30,000 Vale Rex Twogood The Johnson Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

But his plans were quickly dashed when Blissfullabbey, the $2.40 favourite, was beaten for early speed by $7.50 chance Vivere Damore, leaving Blissfullabbey in a pocket, with Angel In White ($8) in the breeze outside the pacemaker.

However, Harper was able to ease Blissfullabbey off the pegs 900m from home, forcing Angel In White three wide for a brief period. Blissfullabbey then followed Angel In White, who dashed to the front at the 200m but was unable to hold out Blissfullabbey, who sprinted home strongly to take the lead 100m from the post on her way to beating Angel In White by a length.

“Blissfullabbey led and won well two starts ago and I thought we could do the same,” said Harper. “But that plan went out the window pretty quickly. I thought we might have had the speed to keep Vivere Damore out early. But we couldn’t.

“We had to stay cool and work out Plan B. I didn’t think that the leader could hold up and keep running after the 36.7sec. lead time. Vivere Damore is a lovely horse, but I considered she could be found wanting over the final 100 metres.

“So, I thought we could have found a bit of a roadblock (by staying on the pegs). Angel In White was going well in the breeze and I thought it would be good to get off (the pegs) and follow her. I had to wait for the right timing and the push out pole.

“Thankfully, when the time came we were able to get off and sit there (one-out and one-back) until it was time to go. In the end she won with the plugs in. She was well and truly involved in that 36sec. lead time, and was able to run on fast, like she had just joined in.  

“She was trained to the minute and was impressive. After the early work I thought she wasn’t entitled to win. But she won comfortably.”

Blissfullabbey gave her trainer Chris Willis his first success in a group 3 harness racing feature event. He and his daughter Prue George certainly have no regrets about outlaying $5000 to buy Blissfullabbey in June 2020.

The seven-year-old now has raced 36 times for her new owners for six wins, 11 placings and stakes of $79,963.

The 61-year-old Willis has also been a successful trainer of thoroughbreds for many years and has won group 2 and group 3 events at the gallops. “I have won a couple of Hyperions and a WA Guineas with Chelsea, and Bar Dreamer won quite a few listed and group 3 races,” he said.

“On her day, Blissfullabbey is pretty good. She has had a good deal of feet problems, and once we were able to cure them and get rid of all the soreness it has made the difference.

“I’ll see if I can find a few more suitable races for her. Once you have a mare in form you should keep her going. She is fit and healthy.”