Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Victorian-bred five-year-old The Code Breaker has finished at the rear at his first two starts after a seven-month absence. But star reinsman Chris Voak is confident the Ross Olivieri-trained gelding will prove hard to beat in the 2536m Garrard’s Here On Track Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
The Code Breaker, a winner at ten of his 42 starts, is favourably drawn at barrier No. 2, and Voak would dearly love to set the pace.
“I reckon if he is able to lead, he will be very hard to run down,” said Voak. “So, Plan A is to lead.”
The Code Breaker began out wide at barrier eight in a 2130m event last Friday night when he settled down at the rear in the field of twelve. Voak then sent the gelding forward, three wide, 1200m from home, and he quickly moved to third at the bell before continuing three wide in the final circuit.
He was still third with 250m to travel before he faded to finish eleventh, just over three lengths behind the winner Hittheroadjack.
“The Code Breaker was short of a run last week when I gave him plenty to do,” said Voak. “He was three deep from the 1200m, and they went 27.9sec. down the back. He has trained on well since last week’s run.”
There is likely to be a keen tussle for the early lead in Friday night’s race, with the polemarker Texas Tara and Palatino, who will start from barrier three, both possessing excellent gate speed.
The Cody Wallrodt-trained Palatino looms as a major hope. He led from barrier one and withstood an early challenge for the front when he went on to set the pace and win by a length from Will I Rocknroll, rating 1.56.3 over 2130m last Friday week.
Palatino will be driven for the first time by Emily Suvaljko, who said: “He is a very good frontrunner who very rarely gets beaten when he leads. The two horses on his inside could also be keen to lead, so if we can’t lead it will be ideal to get some cover.”
Kyle Harper drove Palatino to victory at his most recent start, but he chose to handle the Bob Mellsop-trained Our Star Watch, who will start from barrier six.
“It is an awkward draw, but he is ready to win,” said Mellsop. “I wouldn’t be worried if he has to sit in the breeze. I have had a few problems with him touching his knees. But he seems to be over that now.”
Harper will also drive Iamthefirecracker for Mellsop in the 2130m Garrard’s Your One Stop Shop Pace. “He has been screaming out for a barrier, and barrier one this week is a bonus,” said Mellsop.
“He has a lot of ability but not the greatest tractability. My preference will be to lead, and here he gets the opportunity to put his hand up.”
A win with Iamthefirecracker or Our Star Watch would come as some compensation for Mellsop and Harper, who were disappointed that Special Lady was robbed of victory in a race on Tuesday night when that mare took the lead 220m from home and was certain to win before locking wheels with Eldaytona on the home turn and being knocked out of contention.