Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
New Zealand-bred five-year-old Ima Fivestar General is a rising star of West Australian harness racing, and his trainer-reinsman Robbie Williams predicts he has the ability to shine at the top level of the sport.
Williams bought the Art Major gelding six months ago and syndicated him to 17 friends and stable clients — and the gelding has impressed with five wins, a second and a fourth from his first seven starts in Western Australia.
He purchased Ima Fivestar General from Peter Bagrie and his son Tom, who are successful harness racing breeders and chicken farmers from Ohoka, a town a few kilometres north of Christchurch.
The Bagries are well known as the family which bought Im Themightyquinn for $13,000 as a yearling and then sold him for $180,000 as a three-year-old to champion WA trainer Gary Hall snr and some of his stable clients.
Im Themightyquinn retired as a superstar of harness racing, with earnings of $4,567,456 from 58 wins and 34 placings from 111 starts. His victories included 14 group 1 events, including three Interdominion championships, three WA Pacing Cups, three Fremantle Cups and two Auckland Cups.
Williams is under no illusion that Ima Fivestar General will develop into a shining star like Im Themightyquinn, but he is confident he will become a top-quality performer in his own right.
Williams has developed a strong friendship with Tom Bagrie and his father and has stayed with the family on numerous visits to New Zealand.
“I have bought quite a few horses from Peter and Tom, and they have all done well,” said Williams. “One of them was the chestnut mare Char Ming, a trotter who won nine times and was placed another nine times between 2015 and 2017.
“I had watched Ima Fivestar General race on the internet and was impressed. So, I rang them and asked if they would be interested in selling him. I made an offer, and they were happy. We did pay a lot of money for him, in my terms.”
Ima Star General gave further proof of his wonderful potential when he was the $1.10 favourite from barrier one and set the pace before scoring a comfortable win over Power And Grace ($13) and Orlando Blue ($10), rating 1.57.5 over the 2130m, with final quarters of 28.7sec. and 27.5sec.
“He is still very green and has got a lot of learning to do,” said Williams. “He has got to learn how to race in WA. He is still inclined to race the New Zealand way, which is rather lackadaisical and is a gentleman’s sport, whereas in WA it’s full on and flat out.
“He has the ability and will make it and go right through to fast-class. I think he will need 12 months of racing before we think about big races like the WA Pacing Cup.
“His major strength is his versatility. I really haven’t had much of a chance to drive him sit-sprint. I think he is a very good sit-sprinter, and when he goes up in grade the races against the better horses will suit him. He is also very good in front. He is not a horse who wins by a long way; he does just what he has to do.
“His sister Bettors Heart is a very good horse who is now racing in America.” Bettors Heart, a half-sister to Ima Fivestar General, won the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at 25/1 at Menangle in March 2020 and boasts a record of 81 starts for 18 wins, 21 placings and stakes of $410,088.
Bettors Heart and Ima Fivestar General are out of the Sokys Atom mare Valiant Heart, who enjoyed a colourful career of 168 starts for 23 wins, 48 placings and $633,920 in stakes. She had 37 starts in New Zealand for four wins and seven placings and then raced 22 times in Australia in 1999 and 2000 for ten wins and three placings before a successful career in America between 2001 and 2005.
Williams said that he is now setting Ima Fivestar General for the $50,000 Easter Cup at Gloucester Park on April 15. “It’s a 2900m stand,” said Williams. “He’s a good stayer and the distance is perfect for him.”