100 Group Ones for Emma Stewart

by Adam Hamilton

Champion trainer Emma Stewart clocked-up another monster milestone at Menangle over the weekend. It was her 100th Group One success.

Brilliant Art Major colt First Responder took advantage of a gun run behind the leader to win the inaugural $175,000 Group 1 Nutrien 2YO colts and geldings final (2300m).

“It sort of snuck up on me a bit,” Stewart said of the milestone, “We’re so busy setting horses for the big races, but it’s pretty amazing.”

Although the training operation is Stewart in name, it is very much a partnership between her and Clayton Tonkin. They are a juggernaut. Stewart is the first Australian trainer to bring up the century of Group Ones in her own right, with her first runner as a trainer being in May 2002. Her first Group One was with Manwarra Hatrick in 2007.

First Responder was bred by Lauriston Bloodstock’s Bill and Anne Anderson and is out of their star broodmare Smyrna Duruisseau, making him a half-brother to the All Stars’ former superstar juvenile Follow The Stars.

Stewart and Tonkin dominated the race on paper with the three favourites with Major Celebrity leading, First Responder in the trail and favourite Petracca outside the leader.

As soon as First Responder saw daylight along the inside the race was over and driver Mark Pitt coasted to 4.5m over the late-closing Dangerous with Major Celebrity third and Petracca a gallant fourth in a 1min57.7sec mile rate and closing splits of 55.4 and 26.7sec.

“I think all three of ours are very, very smart youngsters,” Stewart said. “We’ve got another couple at home, especially The Lost Storm, who is right up with them. We’ve got a fantastic crop of (2YO) boys this season.”

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Kate Gath could hardly hide her smile after Catch A Wave’s return to winning form.

It wasn’t the thumping margin or the brilliant sectional times, but rather the way Catch A Wave did it.

The outstanding but raw three-year-old looked the most complete and professional he has yet.

Despite blasting off the gate from an outside draw to lead, the normally headstrong Catch A Wave then relaxed superbly with the block blinkers on the first time.

Gath steadied for a comfortable 60.5sec middle half then ripped home in 55.1 and 27.1sec to win without being extended by 14m in the Group 3 Vicbred Championship Final (2240m) at Melton.

“It was great to win, but even better to have him do it the way he did,” Gath said. “We all know the talent he has, but becoming a better racehorse is what we need from him as we get close to the big races.”

It was Catch A Wave’s 10th win from just 12 starts and he likely to have another couple of runs before the heats of the Victoria Derby at Melton on October 1.

His clash with the NSW and Queensland Derby winner Leap To Fame in that series already shapes as being mouth-watering.

Earlier in the night, Gath teamed with recent Kiwi import Pull The Other Leg to make it two wins from as many Aussie starts when he thrashed a handy field in race one.

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Young gun former Kiwi horseman Jack Trainor snared his seventh Group 1 driving success with a minor upset on Somethin Bout Eily in the $175,000 Nutrien 2YO Fillies’ final at Menangle.

Trainor teamed with emerging Victorian trainer Jess Tubbs, who trained the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere.

It capped a phenomenal night for Bill and Anne Anderson’s Lauriston Bloodstock, which bred both Group 1 Nutrien final winners.

Somethin Bout Eily is out of their broodmare National Gallery, which makes the filly her sixth winner from as many foals to race.

Back to Trainor and he also caused a massive upset when he drove $34 shot Pitch Perfect to win the free-for-all at Menangle for trainer Roy Roots Jr.

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Gary Hall Jr equalled his personal best with a staggering haul of six wins from the 10 races at Gloucester Park last Friday night.

The 40-year-old champ had driven six winners three previous times at WA’s harness headquarters.

Hall Jr’s splurge started with Rascal in race one, moved to former Kiwi Lord Rosco in race two and then he teamed with top young trainer Justin Prentice to win the feature, the $100,000 Pearl Classic for 2YO colts and geldings with the unbeaten Sweet Lou gelding Never Ending.

It was a huge result for Prentice, who snared the quinella when Valedictorian sat parked and fought on bravely for second.

Hall Jr then won races seven, eight and nine on Kiwi-bred trio Im Themightylucy, Euphoria and Cooper.

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Champion driver Chris Lewis thinks Lavra Joe has the potential to join the greats he’s driven through his stellar 52-year career.

Lewis is nearing 5850 career wins and is third on the all-time Australasian list behind only Chris Alford (7734) and the late Gavin Lang (6303).

The Kiwi-bred Village Kid is and will always be Lewis' benchmark horse, having won 93 races and a stack of features, including a clean sweep of the 1986 Brisbane Inter Dominion series.

“There will only be one Village Kid, but Lavra Joe has the potential to up with the other top horses I’ve driven like Saab, Talladega, Hilarion Star and Jack Mac, who as a young horse showed amazing potential before being injured,” Lewis said.

The Ray Jones-trained Lavra Joe made it 24 wins from just 40 starts and – most importantly – two free-for-all wins in a row on the comeback trail from injury when he scored at Gloucester Park last Friday night.

It was a procession once Lewis used barrier one to lead and dictate through a 61.5sec middle half of the long 2536m trip. Lavra Joe then dashed home in 55.3 and 27.2sec to win as he liked.

“It’s still early days, but the times he’s run when asked say he’ll measure up and he gives you the feel of a really nice horse,” Lewis said.

Lavra Joe was part of a winning treble for Lewis, who at 67, is still a major player in WA.

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The excitement continues to build around Chris Lang’s latest buzz trotter Ollivici.

The four-year-old half-brother to former Kiwi champ Stent made it four wins from as many starts this campaign when he humbled a strong free-for-all field in the first heat of the Tornado Valley series at Melton.

Lang took Ollivici straight to the front from gate five, dictated terms and turned it into just a 400m dash home in 27.6sec to beat the talented All Cashed Up along the sprint lane by 2.5m in a 1min58.8sec mile rate for 2240m.

Lang has previously declared the Inter Dominion a target for Ollivici, who has now won eight of his 15 starts.

The other heat was won by a former Kiwi mare, but not the one punters hoped for.

Vacation Hill was sent out favourite and led as expected, but Kerryn Manning’s Orlando Vici mare Adelle came around the field to win in emphatic style.

Adelle has four of eight starts since joining Manning’s barn to go to 12 wins from 38 lifetime starts.

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Former Kiwi pacer Northview Hustler missed the recent Queensland Carnival features with a minor setback.

But the rising nine-year-old showed he was still a serious open-class force in Queensland with a barnstorming free-for-all win, running down former NZ Cup hero Cruz Bromac in fantastic style at Albion Park.

Cruz Bromac, now with Shannon Price in Queensland, led with favourite Mach Da Vinci on his outside, but Northview Hustler sustained a booming run around the field to win by 1.9m in a slick 1min53.5sec mile rate for 2138m.

Northview Hustler, now trained by Jack Butler and driven by Brendan Barnes, has won 20 of his 119 starts with another 25 placings and banked $312,586.

 

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