Ken Casellas | Photo Credit: Hamilton Content Creators
Aldo Cortopassi had a few anxious moments before driving Magnificent Storm to a stirring win in the $25,000 Blake Ashworth Memorial Marathon Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
“It was a big effort to start off 40 metres and then to overcome a couple of setbacks,” said Cortopassi after the inexperienced and lightly-raced four-year-old had defeated The Tiger Army ($20) and Batavia On Fire ($41) in the gruelling 3309m event.
Magnificent Storm was the $1.50 favourite, and he was in trouble less than 150m after the start when frontmarker Middlepage broke into a gallop, forcing Cortopassi to take evasive action and lose a couple of lengths.
“It looked as though Middlepage was galloping in a straight line, and I wanted to give myself plenty of room to get around him,” said Cortopassi. “And then Middlepage ran up the track (forcing Magnificent Storm out about four wide).”
Nearis Green, a $23 chance, was first into stride from the No. 5 barrier on the front line, and the field of nine quickly settled down in Indian file, with Alta Blues, the second fancy at $7.50 off the 30m mark in eighth place, with Magnificent Storm bringing up the rear.
Gary Hall jnr moved Alta Blues off the pegs after a lap, and Cortopassi was quick to follow that pacer. There was no change in the order for the next two laps, with Nearis Green setting a strong tempo with the first three quarters of the final mile in 29.7sec., 28.4sec. and 28.7sec.
Alta Blues burst to the front with 500m to travel — and soon afterwards Magnificent Storm encountered another check when he locked wheels with Batavia On Fire as Chris Voak eased that pacer off the pegs.
“Chris quite legitimately came off the pegs with Batavia On Fire from behind the leader and we locked wheels,” said Cortopassi. “This broke Magnificent Storm’s momentum and I had to pull him back while Alta Blues had put a bit of space on us.”
However, Magnificent Storm recovered quickly and sprinted fast to charge past Alta Blues about 250m from home. Magnificent Storm was slowing down in the home straight but was able to hold out The Tiger Army, who finished strongly from sixth at the bell. Batavia On Fire was a nose away in third place, with Alta Blues a close fourth.
“Magnificent Storm was not comfortable after that incident, and he didn’t have a lot left (in the final stages). It wasn’t the perfect trip, but we got the job done,” said Cortopassi.
Trainer Ray Williams, who prepared Balleybofey for his win in the 2013 Marathon, was more than happy with Magnificent Storm’s victory (rating 2.09) and said that a decision would be made early in the following week whether the gelding would contest the August Cup next Friday night.
“He jumped a few hurdles for me tonight, and I reckon that was one of his best runs,” Williams said. “The good thing was that even though he shied at the tapes and veered out at the start, he paced out. He had never been in a stand before or raced over that distance. He was out on his feet about 50 metres from home and he just kept on going.”
Magnificent Storm, a New Zealand-bred gelding by American Ideal, has already netted $224,137 in prizemoney from 14 wins and one second placing from 16 starts, and is destined for stardom.