Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond, fresh from winning the trainers’ premiership with 165 winners last year, made a spectacular start to the 2022 season when spritely veteran Vampiro smashed the track record for 2130m in winning the $50,000 Pat Cranley Memorial at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
This outstanding result followed the Bond camp’s victories with Double Up and Ideal Agent in the Nights of Thunder qualifying heats earlier in the program.
Vampiro, a $32.10 outsider driven expertly by Michael Grantham, gave the Bonds a rare trifecta result, with the eight-year-old beating five-year-old stablemates Minstrel ($4.40) and Patronus Star ($16) in the group 2 feature event.
The three stable stars will clash again as leading candidates in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup next Friday week.
“Vampiro is ready for another crack at the Cups,” said Skye Bond. “He has been fortunate enough to have run a couple of seconds in them (leading when a head second to Caviar Star in the Fremantle Cup in January 2020, and leading when a head second to stablemate Mighty Conqueror in the WA Pacing Cup at his next start).
“He has come back from a break really well and is very well in himself. We have been getting to the beach at Kwinana in the hot weather. It’s been a combination of working him at home and wading at the beach.
“Often when horses get older, they lose their gate speed a bit. But he hasn’t lost his early speed; it’s a great asset.”
Vampiro, having his second start after a spell, began speedily from the No. 5 barrier and dashed to an early lead which he surrendered to Minstrel with 1150m to travel. This left Hurricane Harley ($3.60) in the breeze, with Patronus Star enjoying a perfect run, one-out and one-back.
Minstrel looked set for victory when he turned for home with a comfortable advantage. But he failed to hold out the fast-finishing Vampiro, who ran home powerfully to win by a half-length, rating 1.52.6 which broke the track record for 2130m (1.52.9) held jointly by Beaudiene Boaz and Talktomeurmattjesty.
Vampiro, who is owned by Mrs Bond and Rob Gartrell, won once from seven starts as a three-year-old in New Zealand. He now has had 82 starts for 29 wins, 27 placings and earnings of $683,001.
He won at his first six starts at Gloucester Park (in 2017) and his wins in feature events include the Mount Eden Sprint and James Brennan Memorial in 2018, the Stratton Cup and Village Kid Sprint in 2019 and the Pinjarra Cup in 2020.
Grantham has a 100 per cent record in the sulky behind Vampiro, with his previous drive behind the Rocknroll Hanover gelding being when he set the pace and beat Herrick Roosevelt and Galactic Star in the Village Kid Sprint in December 2019.
Friday night’s Cranley Memorial was run at a cracking pace, with a fast lead time of 35.9sec. being followed by quarters of 29sec., 28.5sec., 28.2sec. and 27.4sec.
The Bond trifecta returned a dividend of $1557.80, and the first four dividend (with $12 chance Balcatherine finishing fourth) paid a handsome $12,171.80.
Mrs Bond has delighted with the runs of the three placegetters, saying: “Minstrel maybe was just a little keen, and he stuck it out really well, while Patronus Star put in a really good run. He is always going to be a sniper from back in the pack.”
Nine-year-old Chicago Bull was the $3.20 favourite in Friday night’s race in which he started from the inside on the back line. He was eighth in the one-wide line at the bell and battled on gamely to finish fifth.
Vampiro’s victory gave the Bond stable a record fifth win in the Cranley Memorial, following the successes of Motu Treasure (2010), Midnight Dylan (2013), Galactic Star (2018) and Mighty Conqueror (2019).
Magnificent Storm, the pre-post favourite for Friday’s event, was withdrawn by trainer Ray Williams under the heat policy protocols.