Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Mitch Miller is enjoying a breakout season and is sitting in fourth position on the West Australian drivers’ premiership table with 27 winners after first ten weeks of the year — and he is excited at the prospect of landing his first winner of a group feature event when he drives Flametree in the $30,000 Trotsynd Gold Bracelet for two-year-old fillies at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Flametree, prepared at Busselton by her part-owner Barry Howlett, will start from the prized No. 1 barrier in the group 3 Gold Bracelet over 1730m, and Miller is planning to use Flametree’s gate speed in a bid for an all-the-victory.
The 27-year-old Miller is driving with considerable skill and confidence, and he has handled Flametree in all of her four career starts for a debut win in Albany on February 4, followed by a third, a sixth and a second placing, all at Gloucester Park.
“Her past couple of runs have been very good (sixth behind Cabsav in the Sales Classic and second to Wanea last Friday night) because she has been coming from a long way back,” said Miller. “Her manners have been improving every week.
“Her manners were the best they’ve ever been last week, and even though she was beaten, she fought on real tough. Barry changed her shoes before last Friday’s race, and she went a lot better. Before that she was cross firing a bit and was racing greenly, like some two-year-olds do.
“They ran good time last week and her effort was full of credit. And last Friday was the best she has left the gate. I think from one this week she should have enough speed to hold up and go pretty close.”
Miller has driven in fifty group events for four placings in group two events and two placings in group 3 races.
Flametree, purchased for $40,000 at the 2021 Perth APG yearling sale, is by American sire Huntsville and is out of former top-flight mare Party Date. Flametree is a half-sister to eight winners, including Pierre Whitby, an all-the-way winner at Gloucester Park last Friday night.
One of Flametree’s main rivals looms large as August Moon, who will be driven by her trainer Luke Edwards from the No. 2 barrier. August Moon was a $41 outsider when she raced in fifth position, three back on the pegs, before finishing strongly to be a half-length second to Cabsav in the group 1 Sales Classic last Friday week.
Sweet Vivienne, Fly To Fame and American Monarch also will have admirers, with ace reinsman Kim Prentice looking forward to a strong showing from the Paula Petricevich-trained Sweet Vivienne, who led early (from barrier six) and then trailed the pacemaker and eventual winner Wanea before finishing a sound fourth last Friday night.
“I think that the run last week would have topped her off, and she should go a lot better this week,” said Prentice.
The Peter Anderson-trained Fly To Fame caught the eye when she raced in sixth place before finishing fast, three wide, to be third behind Wanea and Flametree last Friday night.
“We’re not helped by barrier eight this week,” said reinsman Chris Lewis. “But it was quite a nice run by Fly To Fame last week. We will just tuck away, and, hopefully, there’s a good pace, and we will be getting home if there is,” he said.
Capel trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo is pleased with the progress of American Monarch, who is awkwardly drawn at barrier six. American Monarch raced without a trail at her debut when a fighting second to Temukas Girl in a heat of the Sales Classic (in which Flametree finished third) and then finished fourth, less than a length behind the winner Cabsav in the Sales Classic final.
“She was a bit unlucky in the big race at her last start when she didn’t get out until late,” said de Campo.