Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Lightly-raced four-year-old Ezana managed to win only once from nine starts in New Zealand, but he has blossomed under the care of astute Mt Helena trainer Ray Williams and he has bright prospects of winning the group 3 $30,000 Cowden The Insurance Brokers Pure Steel feature event at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Williams is full of hope that Ezana will give him his second success in the Pure Steel Pace, following Major Pocket’s all-the-way victory in May 2019 when the five-year-old stallion set the pace and beat All Jokes Aside by a metre.
Ezana, a Bettors Delight gelding and the first foal out of Hartofdixie, will be handled by harness racing’s man of the moment Dylan Egerton-Green, who has landed nine winners from his past 15 drives.
Ezana will start from the No. 1 barrier and Egerton-Green will be anxious to take full of advantage of the prized barrier and the gelding’s excellent gate speed in a bid for an all-the-way win. Ezana has been freshened up since he started out wide at barrier six and had a tough run in the breeze before finishing second to Markham Eyre over 2185m at Pinjarra three Wednesdays ago.
That followed impressive wins at his three previous starts, and his WA record of eight wins and two seconds from eleven outings has earned him favouritism for Friday night’s event.
Ezana’s main rivals appear to be Socrates, Hillview Bondi and Moonlite Drive.
Socrates, a comparatively inexperienced five-year-old, raced eight times in New Zealand for two wins and five placings before arriving in WA and impressing greatly with his five wins and a second from six starts for champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond.
Socrates will be driven by Ryan Warwick, who won the Pure Steel Pace with $9.90 chance El Jacko (trained by Skye Bond) in May 2018, and then Warwick scored an easy all-the-way victory from barrier one in last year’s Pure Steel Pace with the Greg and Skye Bond-trained Parmesan .
Socrates looks capable of overcoming the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line.
He put up a tremendous performance last Friday night when he galloped at the standing start and lost about ten lengths before recovering quickly and then working hard in the breeze and getting to the front 500m from home and finishing a gallant second to his talented stablemate Glenledi Chief.
In-form trainer Ryan Bell will be represented by smart four-year-olds Hillview Bondi and Sound Wave, with Kyle Symington choosing to drive Hillview Bondi from the awkward draw at No. 7 on the front line, with Aiden de Campo being engaged for Sound Wave, who will start from the outside of the back line.
Bell is confident that both pacers will be prominent. Sound Wave notched his eighth win from 39 starts when he led and defeated Moonlite Drive and Master Publisher last Friday night, while Hillview Bondi is in brilliant form, with his nine starts this season producing four wins, four seconds and a third placing.
“It’s a big rise in class for Hillview Bondi, but when you look at his sectionals and the way he is racing, I’m sure he will acquit himself well,” said Bell. “He hasn’t met horses of this calibre, but he has amazed me. Obviously, he just loves running his own races (in the breeze).
“It will be a bit different for him this week. We will stick with his normal racing pattern, but he will have to be controlled a bit more than just letting him run. He is big and raw and a bit immature. But he will still run a good, honest race.
“Sound Wave has already proved he can go with Socrates. Earlier this year he ran Socrates to three-quarters of a length over a mile (1684m) at Pinjarra, rating 1.53.5. He is a bit of an underrated horse. He’s tough and I’m not discounting him.”
Moonlite Drive, trained by Michael Young, is racing keenly for trainer Michael Young. He has shown admirable determination when finishing seconds to Pradason and Sound Wave on the past two Friday nights, after working hard in the breeze.
He will start from barrier two on the back line and will be driven by Gary Hall Jnr, who drove Balcatherine to an easy all-the-way win (from the No. 1 barrier) in the 2020 Pure Steel Pace.
Nathan Turvey, who drove Livura when he was beaten a head by Harry Hoo in the 2017 Pure Steel Pace, is hoping for better luck on Friday night when his former Tasmanian performer Cool Water Paddy starts from the inside of the back line.
Cool Water Paddy had no luck at his WA debut last Friday night when he finished eight behind Sound Wave. “He had no luck and was hanging on the home corner,” said driver Emily Suvaljko. “This week he is starting behind a real nice horse (Enzana) and hopefully we’ll get the last crack.”