By Adam Hamilton
THE only thing better than Mick Stanley’s training effort to win the Swan Hill Cup with Menin Gate were the now legendary celebrations by the owners after it.
Menin Gate, the dominant three-year-old in Australasia more than three years ago, scored a remarkable first-up win against serious opposition last Friday night.
It was the now seven year-old’s first start in 16 months, his first run for trainer-driver Mick Stanley and his first since being diagnosed with a small fracture to his pelvis.
Stanley certainly didn’t pick a “soft” option first-up.
“He’s back racing earlier than we expected because absolutely everything has gone right,” Stanley said. “Then when he trialled so well at Maryborough last Sunday, I thought we’d give this race a crack.”
Over a gruelling 2790m and after being pressured early by a headstrong Gottashopearly, Menin Gate then had to deal with some serious midrace “heat” from favourite and Kilmore Cup winner Im The Boss.
Menin Gate looked in strife on the home bend and challenges came from all angles, but he showed all the fighting qualities which made him such a star at three and fended off his rivals to win by a half-head.
He broke the track record for good measure with a 1min57.3sec mile rate.
“It wasn’t the biggest race we’ve won, but it was a great thrill to be able to get him back to somewhere near his best,” Stanley said.
“This is so rewarding. It’s one thing to get a fit and healthy Soho Tribeca, but to bring this guy back from the start of a preparation was so pleasing.”
Stanley said he would skip next week’s Cranbourne Cup and give Menin Gate time to recover in the hope his Inter Dominion ranking has improved sharply.
Im The Boss lost no admirers with a brave and close second after sitting parked, while Magical Marn made ground from last for third and veteran Flaming Flutter ran an eye-catching fourth at his first run back from a spell.
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WITH Chicago Bull out of town, it’s giving WA’s next wave of open-class pacers their chance to shine.
And leading the way is Greg and Skye Bond’s Vampiro, who is building nicely towards a Melbourne Inter Dominion raid.
The Rocknroll Hanover five-year-old scored arguably his best win yet when he sat parked and snatched a narrow but impressive victory in last Friday night’s $50,000 Group 2 Mount Eden Sprint (1730m) at Gloucester Park.
Driver Ryan Warwick was content to let the classy rival Maczaffair dictate terms in front, backing Vampiro’s speed to get him through. And it did with closing splits of 55.6 and 27.5sec.
Vampiro won by a head in a 1min55.2sec mile rate from Maczaffair with another exciting talent, Rocknroll Lincoln, in third spot.
Buzz four-year-old King Of Swing drew awkwardly in three with speed on his inside, drifted back in the run and didn’t make any impact in those blistering closing splits. He ran sixth.
Vampiro, Galactic Star and rejuvenated former star juvenile Mitch Maguire, who also won well at Gloucester Park last Friday, are the Bonds’ Inter Dominion contenders.
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TRAINER Mike Reed has a serious Golden Nugget contender in Bechers Brook.
Reed’s always had a big opinion of the Somebeachsomewhere four-year-old, who scored a remarkable and barnstorming win in the opening race at Gloucester Park last Friday night.
Bechers Brook showed his potential with a close second to King Of Swing in the WA Derby in April and has won both runs back from a spell in terrific style.
“He’s tough and he keeps getting better,” Reed said. “He’s come back really well after his break.”
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TRAINER David Aiken has been such a huge part of the recent Perth Inter Dominions with Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay.
He’s sure to be a big force again in Melbourne this year with Wrappers Delight, Im The Boss and even the emerging Audi Hare.
Audi Hare continued his rise through the ranks with a narrow, but well-earned win in the fast-class race at Melton last night.
Driver David Moran blasted him to the front from the outside draw (gate seven), steadied through the middle stages, then zipped home in 55.3 and 27.3sec to hold-off the in-form Love Ina Chevy and win by a half-head in a 1min57.8sec mile rate for 2240m.
Love Ina Chevy, Lance Justice’s horse who cheated death for days after a snake bite a few years back, also deserves a spot in the Inter Dominion heats on the strength of his excellent recent form.
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FORMER star juvenile Kiwi trotter King Denny won his first race three-and-a-half years with a narrow victory in last Friday night’s Swan Hill Trotters’ Cup.
His last win came while still in the All Stars’ barn in the Harness Jewels final at Ashburton on May 30, 2015.
Since then he’s been plagued by injuries, changed stables a couple of times and also changed ownership.
Now trained and owned by Michael Gadsden, King Denny dug deep as a $28 outsider to win by a neck in a 2min2.8sec mile rate for the 2790m stand.
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MOST of Emma Stewart’s glamorous young pacer stars went for spells after the Breeders Crown, but not Demon Delight.
That’s because he was a late bloomer and only made his debut two days of the two-year-old season remaining.
Demon Delight looked terrific winning that debut run and has since added another couple of wins to be unbeaten in three starts.
It’s no secret the stable think he’s got the potential to be right alongside his buzz stablemates Hurricane Harley, Centenario and Hardhitter when it comes Derby time later this season.
Demon Delight underlined his potential winning by 16m and pacing a blistering 1min52.8sec mile rate for 1720m at Melton last night.
Another “must follow” horse from the Melton meeting is Marg Lee’s lightly-raced four-year-old Jilliby Lorenzo.
The son of Roll With Joe ran third to Lumineer in the Australian Gold final at two then had a setback and spent 16 months on the sidelines soon after.
He’s returned with three wins from as many starts on the comeback trail and looked good overcoming a torrid run to win at Melton last night.
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TROTTER Tough Monarch has plenty of tricks, but loads of ability as well.
Trainer-driver Rickie Alchin looks to be gradually winning the battle of turning him into a more reliable racehorse.
Tough Monarch had no luck in an unsuitably run race when an eye-catching fifth to Tornado Valley in the Group 1 Bill Collins Sprint at Melton last Saturday week.
Alchin took him back home and was rewarded with a tough win after racing deep then sitting parked over 2300m at Menangle last night.
It was a big effort in a 1min57.8sec mile rate for 2300m, which compared well with Tiger Tara’s 1min55.4sec in the 2300m pacing free-for-all.
There’s no doubt Tough Monarch can be a serious factor in the upcoming Melbourne Trotters’ Inter Dominion if he keeps doing everything right.
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