Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Aiden de Campo will be the new driver for outstanding four-year-old Magnificent Storm when the gelding contests the $50,000 Navy Cup at Gloucester Park next Friday night.
He will replace Aldo Cortopassi, who has handled the New Zealand-bred pacer in all of his 18 starts in Western Australia for 17 wins and a second placing.
Cortopassi will be unavailable to drive Magnificent Storm in the Navy Cup because he will be serving a seven-day suspension — his first sanction for several years and more than 2000 drives since his previous suspension.
Cortopassi was suspended for causing interference to another runner before driving Magnificent Storm’s full-brother Stamford to victory at Pinjarra on Monday of last week. Trainer Ray Williams said that de Campo would also drive Stamford next Friday night.
Williams said that Magnificent Storm had pulled up in excellent shape after his narrow victory in the group 2 $50,000 James Brennan Memorial at Gloucester Park on Saturday night.
“The plan is for Magnificent Storm to run in the Navy Cup,” said Williams. “That will depend on whether he shows over the next couple of days that he has taken no harm from his win in the Brennan Memorial.”
Magnificent Storm, the $1.04 favourite in Saturday night’s feature event, began speedily and led for the first 70 to 80 metres before Cortopassi surrendered the front to Vampiro, who had begun with his usual alacrity from the No. 5 barrier.
Then, about 500m later Cortopassi eased Magnificent Storm off the pegs and dashed past Vampiro to take up the running. Magnificent Storm then was able to relax and coasted through the first three quarters of the final mile in 31.5sec., 30.9sec. and 29.9sec. before sprinting home in 27.5sec.
Ryan Warwick took Vampiro off the pegs about 150m from the post and the seasoned seven-year-old veteran surged home to threaten the favourite who held on grimly to win by a head.
Cortopassi explained that he had not intended to regain the lead in the first lap of the 2536m event, saying: “I didn’t want to get too much into a war when Vampiro was challenging for the lead. If I got stuck into Magnificent Storm, he could’ve held out Vampiro. But being a small field, I was happy to let him go.
“But then I had to go a bit earlier than I wanted to. However, I decided to move out from behind Vampiro when Gary (Hall jnr) was beginning to move up and about to slide into the breeze with Ideal Liner. I didn’t want to get locked in; there would be nothing worse than to get locked in and not getting a run.
“In the home straight when Ryan (Warwick) got to Magnificent Storm with Vampiro, Magnificent Storm kept lifting. Vampiro is an old war horse, a good horse and a hardened Free-For-Aller. That was what Magnificent Storm needs … to cop a few of these hardened Free-For-All campaigners, to harden him up.
“People tend to forget that Magnificent Storm has had only 19 starts. He’s swimming in the deep end with the big fish already. Now, it’s onwards and upwards for him.”
Williams admitted he was somewhat concerned when Vampiro threatened danger in the closing stages, saying: “Vampiro is a good horse, and sitting on you and having the last shot at you is always a worry.
“I might have backed off him a fraction during the week, and he was off his head in the preliminary. Obviously, he is one of those horses who needs to be worked solidly. He is too smart for his own good, and he tried to kick me tonight. After the Navy Cup he will have a few weeks off.”
Cortopassi completed a successful weekend by taking three stable runners to Kellerberrin on Sunday — and driving all three of them Haywire ($8), Marie Long ($1.24) and Johnny Lombo ($2.75) — to victory.
Equalling that feat at Kellerberrin were leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who had three starters — Squinta ($1.14), Hittheroadjack ($1.12) and Mufasa ($1.65) — who were all successful for driver Deni Roberts.