Ken Casellas: Photo Gloucester Park Harness Racing
Kyle Harper made the most of a chance drive behind speedy six-year-old Palatino when he drove the Art Major pacer to victory in the 2130m Flowerbed Racing Challenge Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night to boost the spirits of part-owner and trainer-reinsman Cody Wallrodt.
The 28-year-old Wallrodt was in isolation after returning a positive coronavirus test, and he called on Harper to replace him in the sulky.
Palatino, drawn the prized No. 1 barrier, was the $3.30 second favourite, and Harper made every post a winner by driving the horse aggressively in the early stages to hold out a spirited challenge from $20 chance Smart Fortune before rating Palatino perfectly in front after he had fired up following his early duel.
Palatino sped over the final 800m in 57sec. and he won by a length from the $2.80 favourite Will I Rocknroll, who ran home strongly from sixth at the bell.
“Palatino was trained to the minute by Cody, and the horse was on song tonight,” said Harper. “He produced the gate speed that we needed. I wanted to be in front and I sparked him up to make sure he would lead. He travelled a little bit strongly after I fired him up, but he always felt like the winner.
“He finished well, with the plugs still in and pull-downs still up. All credit is due to Cody, who does a great job with his horses.”
The New Zealand-bred Palatino, who has done all his racing in Western Australia for eight wins, 23 placings and stakes of $72,522, ended a losing sequence of eleven. Remarkably, all his eight wins have been when he has set the pace.