Minstrel gets big rap following Group One success
By Adam Hamilton
Former Kiwi pacer Minstrel emerged as a serious Chariots Of Fire wildcard when ended the unbeaten WA streak of Magnificent Storm in last Friday night’s Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park.
Co-trainer Greg Bond declared him “up with the very best we’ve trained” and notified Club Menangle he wanted to accept the automatic invite to the Chariots which comes with a Nugget win.
The issue will now be the logistics of getting from Perth to Sydney in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.
“They’ve said he needs to be there by Wednesday because the retention barns comes into play from Thursday. There’s some hope of a flight Monday otherwise Tuesday is our last chance,” Bond said.
Remarkably, Minstrel’s win gave veteran driver Colin Brown his first win in state’s biggest 4YO feature.
Even Team Bond has found it a hard race to win with Minstrel just their second Nugget winner after Ana Malak scored two years back.
Minstrel, sent out an $11 shot, was one of four Team Bond runners and certainly deserved the win after making a midrace move and having to sit parked when, strangely, outsider Power And Grace held the front before finishing tailed-off.
Minstrel was sold to Australia in January after winning four from 10 in New Zealand while trained by David and Catherine Butt at Woodend.
It was a mighty win by Minstrel and adding further to it was the fact he smashed the race record with his 1min54.7sec mile rate for the long 2536m taking a full second off the record set by Beaudiene Boaz back in 2015.
“We really think he’s right up with the best horses we’ve ever had and he proved that tonight the way he won,” Greg Bond said.
Magnificent Storm, chasing his 13th win from as many starts in WA, drew the outside and drifted back to last, but was suited when the leaders blazed throughout a very slick 65.8sec lead time. He was beaten on his merits, but lost no admirers.
Driver Aldo Cortopassi made a three-wide move without cover around the field from the 1300m and loomed strongly alongside Minstrel rounding the final bend, but couldn’t sustain the run and missed by a metre.
Team Bond also snared third spot with last season’s WA Derby winner Patronus Star, who did some work early then had the trail on Minstrel and every chance from there.
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The real Expensive Ego showed why he’s been a long-time Chariots Of Fire favourite with a dominant qualifying win in last night’s Group 2 Paleface Adios at Menangle.
A week earlier, Expensive Ego struck early trouble, never looked comfortable around Melton and then copped a bad check late when down the track in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza.
What a contrast it was when he began well enough from gate two to be first to tackle and take the front from early leader and polemarker Kowalski Analysis.
Luke McCarthy then dictated the terms with a cosy 57.4sec middle half before ripping home in 25.9sec to win by 5.4m over Kowalski Analysis, The Mustang and Will The Wizard, who also qualified for the Chariots.
Only a bad barrier will prevent Expensive Ego not being a hot favourite.
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Tough Monarch is a real marvel.
Rickie Alchin’s veteran star snared his third Group 1 win and roared past $400,000 in earnings when he led throughout and won by a whisker in last night’s Knight Pistol at Melton.
Chris Svanosio picked-up the drive, led from gate five with star Kiwi raider Majestic Man moving around to sit parked.
Tough Monarch had Majestic Man beaten on the home bend, but perennial bridesmaid Sundons Courage zoomed up the sprint lane and looked to hit the front before Tough Monarch fought back and snatched a nose win in a 1min57.2sec mile rate for 2240m.
The win came just a eight days after Tough Monarch won a heat of the Great Southern Star then drew poorly and was never a factor in when seventh in the final won by Tornado Valley.
“He’s just a marvel,” Alchin said. “He’s a nine-year-old and probably racing as good as ever.”
Just as he did in a heat and final of the Great Southern Star, Majestic Man found the task of sitting parked beyond him. He fought on well for fourth, just 3.4m from the winner.
The eye-catcher and certainty beaten was Andy Gath’s rising star Majestuoso, who was held-up in traffic until too late then flashed home late in-between runners for third.
Most of the key runners will line-up against on February 27 in the Group 1 Grand Prix where Tornado Valley and maybe McLovin will be in the mix as well.
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Locally-owned Bright Energy is set for a quick back-up in the Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday night.
That means a clash with Lochinvar Art and probably former star Kiwi and now Queensland-based pacer Turn It Up.
Bright Energy might not be one of the glamour Belinda McCarthy open-class players, but he’s nearing $200,000 in career earnings with 15 wins from just 38 starts.
Brad Elder took the drive when Bright Energy stayed out a blistering early speed burn by stablemate Cash N Flow and Tassie raider Ignatius the leaders late in a 1min51.3sec mile.
“We’re not sending any of our biggest names to Newcastle, they’ll wait for the sprints at Menangle, but Bright Energy will probably be one of two or three we’ll have in Mile,” Luke McCarthy said.
Bright Energy boasts five wins from six starts at Newcastle.
Cash N Flow worked very hard in a scorching 25.3sec opening quarter to lead and wilted for sixth, while Ignatius battled away well for third.
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It was a night of upsets when Victoria’s Country Cup circuit moved to Ararat last Friday.
First, McLovin’s baby half-brother Havehorsewilltravel suffered defeat for the first time in six Aussie runs as a $1.10 favourite when nabbed late by $8.30 shot Well Defined in the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup.
But the an even bigger upset unfolded in the Group 3 Pacing Cup when $54.50 shot Zadaka stormed home to win for trainer Greg Norman and driver Jodi Quinlan.
The race was a war between the two favourites through the early and middle stages when Tassie raid Ryley Major led and former classy Kiwi Im Anothermasterpiece poured the pressure on outside him. They tired to finish fourth and third respectively.
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Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin have two serious NSW Derby players in Act Now and Idyllic.
The pair ran the quinella in slick time and put a big margin on the rest when Act Now led throughout and Idyllic sat parked in a 1min54.9sec mile rate for 2240m at Melton last night (Saturday).
Stewart and Tonkin also have prepost NSW Oaks favourite Tough Tilly, a brilliant winner of the Group 1 Vicbred final on New Year’s Eve and sparkling subsequent winner on Hunter Cup night.
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Young gun NSW driver Jack Callaghan deserves a mention for snagging five wins at Newcastle last Friday night.
It’s the second time the youngster had driven five winners at meeting, following his feat at a Newcastle Monday meeting back in April, last year.
Highlighting how in demand Callaghan is, his five winners came for four different trainers. Two of them were for his father, Mark.