There was a remarkable feeling of déjà vu at Gloucester Park on Sunday night when outstanding trainer-reinsman Justin Prentice celebrated his 33RD birthday in grand style by driving Tricky Miki to an easy victory in the $125,000 Choices Flooring Golden Slipper.
A reluctant driver in recent times, Prentice handled the inexperienced two-year-old gelding for the first time in a race after champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr, an unabashed admirer of Tricky Miki, opted to drive New Zealand import Youre So Fine to keep faith with long-term clients of champion trainer Gary Hall snr.
Twelve months ago, Hall chose to drive the Katja Warwick-trained Machnificent in the 2020 Golden Slipper ahead of the Prentice-trained Mighty Ronaldo, leaving Prentice to handle that colt from the outside of the front line.
Mighty Ronaldo, a $31.20 outsider, charged home from ninth at the 400m to win easily from the pacemaker Give Us A Wave, with $9.50 chance Machnificent finishing fourth.
“Junior (Hall jnr) wanted to drive Tricky Miki, but everybody understands that he has to do the right thing by the trainer and stable clients,” said Prentice who selected Tricky Miki at the 2020 APG Perth yearling sale and purchased the son of American stallion Always B Miki for $57,500.
Prentice now owns Tricky Miki in partnership with Glen Mortimer, Ross Fitzgerald, Rod and Sue Brennan, Bruce Jones, Greg Dick, Graham Heath, Bill Gardiner and Neil Pinner.
“He was my favourite colt at the sale, and I thought $57,000 was a really good buy and I was happy to take a gamble with him,” Prentice said. “I like his mother (Harriet Elisabeth) and I reckoned he was a really nice type.
“Probably, three months ago I was thinking I might have made the wrong decision. He wasn’t nice gaited, and we had a lot of problems with him early. This is his first preparation after having four months off. He had some little issues, and I couldn’t go on with his preparation. He is getting better and the faster he goes, the better he feels.
“He will now go and have a good break, and, fingers crossed, when he comes back in, I’m hoping he has matured further and improved more in his gait.”
Meanwhile, Mighty Ronaldo, who was driven by Prentice to victory over Hall’s drive Jumpingjackmac, Sugar Street and Lavra Joe in the WA Derby in April this year, has just resumed training and Prentice is forming plans to take him to Melbourne to contest the Victoria Derby at Melton in October.
“It would be exciting to take him for the Derby and Always An Angel for the Victoria Oaks,” said Prentice. “I have not travelled with a horse before, and I would like to do it this year and learn. It’s a pencilled-in plan at the moment and much depends on the Covid situation, as well as both the three-year-olds performing at the level that warrants a trip.”
Prentice also liked the Alta Christiano youngster (now named Swingband) at last year’s yearling sale and was the under-bidder for the colt who was purchased for $70,000 by Kevin Jeavons. Swingband, a brilliant winner on debut at Pinjarra last Monday week, started from the No. 1 barrier in the Slipper and was second favourite at $5, with Tricky Miki the fifth fancy at $8.50, and Your So Fine the $2.35 favourite.
The inexperienced Swingband rolled out of his gear and galloped badly at the start before trailing his rivals throughout. This enabled Tricky Miki to jump to the front from the No. 2 barrier, but he conceded the lead after about 120m to $7.50 chance Whataretheodds.
“I thought that I was going to lead all the way and be a massive chance,” said Prentice. “But Micky Grantham tested me on the first bend and Tricky Miki put in a bit of a roughie — and Micky seized the opportunity and went again, and I knew I couldn’t keep going and fighting him off, so I let him go.
“I then went from chocolates to what could have been boiled lollies pretty quickly. When I got off the pegs (about 230m from home) Micky’s horse kicked and I thought I might have made the wrong decision. Tricky Miki then put in another couple of rough strides on the home turn, but once he regained his balance he sprinted strongly.”
Tricky Miki burst to the front at the 100m and dashed away to score by two and a half lengths from Whataretheodds, with Youre So Fine finishing doggedly to be third after enjoying a perfect passage in the one-out, one-back position. A head farther back in fourth place was Prentice’s No. 2 runner, the $31 chance Tomlous Jambo.
Hall jnr said he was happy with Youre Son Fine’s effort. “He hung a bit on the last bend which caught me a bit unawares,” he said. “He kept running to the line, and if the race had gone a bit further, he would have run second. The winner is a very good horse and I really rate him.”
“It’s a bit like last year when Justin won the Slipper with Mighty Ronaldo to celebrate his birthday,” said Hall. “Soon after the Slipper we both enjoyed a holiday in Exmouth.”
Prentice who turned 33 on the day after Sunday’s big race, which brought up his 20TH group 1 win as a trainer, plans to get some sunshine and do some fishing in Exmouth with Hall at the end of this month when Hall will celebrate his 39TH birthday.
Written by Ken Casellas | Photo Credit: Hamilton Content Creators