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Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing

New Zealand-bred pacer Ima Rockabilly Rebel has been a work in progress for leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, and the four-year-old notched his fifth win from eight starts this season when he finished solidly to beat $34 outsider Master Leighton in the 2130m Taking You To New Heights Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

“Greg has said for 12 months that he’s like a first-year apprentice trying to become a tradie,” explained star reinsman Ryan Warwick.

“They’ve been very conscious about where they have raced him and how long they have raced him for. It’s working and I think he is nearly there. He is mentally probably a little bit off still. But there has always been ability, and I think we are now seeing a more consistent model, which is good.”

Ima Rockabilly Rebel, the $1.90 favourite from barrier four in Friday night’s race, raced in sixth position, one-out and two-back, while the $3.70 second fancy Distinguished Taste was setting a brisk pace with a lead time of 36.7sec. and opening quarters of 29.4sec. and 28.7sec.

Warwick sent Ima Rockabilly Rebel forward, three wide, at the 700m and the four-year-old surged to the front 180m later and was not extended in beating Master Leighton by 4m. However, Warwick had to drive him vigorously approaching the home turn before he finished full of running.

“I think it was a case of him having a gawk around,” said Warwick. “He probably hasn’t been in that position (in front) enough because we have always driven him for speed to run through the line. Tonight, he was in front a lot earlier than usual and he probably didn’t know how to handle it. However, I thought his performance was pretty good.

“We thought as a three-year-old he had the potential to be a Derby contender, but he didn’t mature in time. His transition has been good, and I can’t see why he won’t develop into a fringe player for the big races for four-year-old later this year.”

Ima Rockabilly Rebel has raced exclusively in Western Australia where his 20 starts have produced nine wins, six placings and $64,228 in stakes.