Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park Harness Racing

Exactly eleven years ago, on Friday May 13, 2011, Slick Bird finished third behind Artemis Belle in the WA Oaks, and her second foal While They Pray marked the occasion by scoring an upset victory in the $30,000 Allira and Jett Free-For-All at Gloucester Park on Friday night, May 13, 2022.

It was a noteworthy triumph for the lightly-raced six-year-old While They Pray, who was making his third appearance on his comeback trail, after 20 months off the scene.

While They Pray, prepared at Pinjarra by Michael George, was a $24.80 outsider, with Texas Tiger the hot $1.30 favourite.

When Texas Tiger contacted an arm of the mobile barrier and broke into a bad gallop, losing almost 50m, Lindsay Harper dashed While They Pray forward from barrier four. But While They Pray was trapped three wide, forcing Harper to restrain the gelding back to fifth position in the field of six.

“I had planned to restrain at the start,” explained Harper. “But when Texas Tiger galloped, I decided to go forward. But after being caught out wide, I then reverted to plan B and decided to go back.”

Dont Bother Me None ($7.50) set the pace, with Vultan Tin ($15) in the breeze, thus giving While They Pray an ideal trail in the one-out, one-back position.

Vultan Tin eventually got to the front 550m from home, while Texas Tiger, after making up considerable lost ground, was charging forward, out four wide. Texas Tiger took a narrow lead at the 220m mark before wilting in the home straight as Cordero ($7.50) was finishing stoutly.

While They Pray finished determinedly to get up and win by a half-head from Cordero, with $51 chance Tyler Brett flying home, out wide, to be a nose away in third place. Vultan Tin finished fourth, with Texas Tiger a most unlucky fifth.

George was unable to bring While They Pray to Gloucester Park because of work commitments as a trade assistant at Alcoa, leaving his wife Prue as an able substitute trainer, who explained that the Alta Christiano gelding had twice suffered damage to his near front tendon.

“He made it back to trials after recovering from his first tendon injury, but then did a tendon again, in the same leg but a bit higher,” she said. “This is his third run back, and so far, it is so good.”

While They Pray now has earned $139,888 from 15 wins and nine placings from 35 starts. His dam Slick Bird (by Bettors Delight) raced 34 times for ten wins, nine placings and $89,999 in stakes. Slick Bird’s first foal Slick Artist has earned $256,184 from 18 wins and 29 placings from 93 starts, and her third foal Faster Than Dad has had 14 starts for five wins, three placings and $29,172.