Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Ravenswood trainer Nathan Turvey is a sensible, down-to-earth character with a conservative outlook on his pacers. But he was clearly excited at Gloucester Park on Friday night when the latest addition to his stable, Sahara Tiger, made his Western Australian debut in the Call DTS Now Pace.
The lightly-raced Victorian-bred five-year-old didn’t turn a hair when, driven confidently by Emily Suvaljko, he ambled along in front and won the 2130m event by a length from giant pacer Whoswhointhezoo, rating 1.58.7 after good final quarters of 28.2sec. and 28.7sec.
The powerful, well-muscled Art Major gelding was making his first appearance for ten weeks and he ended a losing sequence of eight. Starting favourite at $1.50 from the No. 2 barrier, Sahara Tiger took the lead after 200m and was not seriously challenged after the slow lead time of 39.5sec. and opening 400m sections of 31.1sec. and 29.6sec.
It wasn’t a remarkable performance, but he won with plenty in reserve.
“He was pretty laid back, but he won, and that’s the main thing,” said Turvey. “He’s pretty fast but he didn’t do too much tonight. He’s a pretty lazy horse.”
Queried about the horizon for Sahara Tiger, Turvey smiled and said: “We’re aiming high. But I’ll let him do the talking.”
Sahara Tiger raced 39 times in Victoria for the husband-and-wife training team of Debbie and Gary Quinlan, who considered that the gelding was capable of doing a good job in Western Australia after progressing to just below Free For All company in Melbourne.
Turvey is forming an excellent association with the Quinlans, who earlier this year sold him Heavens Showgirl and sent him four-year-old Leosabi.
Heavens Showgirl performed brilliantly for Turvey, having nine starts in the space of 84 days for five wins and one second placing and earnings of $54,984 before being sold to America in June. Leosabi has had ten starts for Turvey for four wins, three seconds and stakes of $23,631.
Sahara Tiger, whose dam Sahara Miss had 80 starts for 13 wins, 21 placings and $66,463, has several owners, including a syndicate from the Balwyn Football Club, which won the 2008 premiership in Melbourne’s Eastern Football League when Danile Harford was playing-coach. Harford and Turvey (who celebrated his 44TH birthday on Sunday of last week) were teammates at AFL club Hawthorn in the late 1990s.