It was a day of two halves this weekend at Belmont Park, as punters were forced to reassess racing conditions mid-program – and they managed to do this very successfully. By the time race four was concluded we were all convinced mid-field or worse was the place to be in running, but when It’s A Merc upset the apple cart to lead all the way in the first leg of the major quaddie, punting plans were thrown into disarray. But despite this about-face, the punters would prevail – lynching the Bag-Men in six of the eight races to secure a well overdue collect. The hoops shared the spoils, although mention must be made of the slashing ride from veteran jockey Peter Hall aboard Tower Of Lonhro for Adam Durrant. That win was the second leg of a training double for Durrant who had early prepared Ora Dare – successful over the staying trip in the opener.

PR1). LD Total HCP BM78+ 2200m.                        

The usual suspects lined up for today’s staying event, with one new inclusion raising the eyebrows of bewildered punters. Shane Quilty’s stable favourite Fancy Feet ($2.80 – $3.20) had opened favourite following a decisive victory over 1650m a fortnight ago, and although there was an avalanche of money early for the newcomer – punters wised up as the race start closed in – and it would be the first of many smart moves that would pay-off. When Operational ($5.50) shot to the front with Fancy Feet sitting on its outside without cover, the stage was set for eventual public elect Ora Dare ($3.30 – $2.70 fav) – jock Ben Paterson riding the Oratorio 4yo close to the speed in third, before accounting for the front runners at the 200m mark to kick clear for a 1 ¼ length victory.

WATCH: Despite having to settle for fourth, it was a bold showing from Fancy Feet on debut over the distance – looks to have a heap of staying ability.

PR2). Westspeed HCP 3YO BM64+ 1000m.

A mini-match race was presented for punters in the second, with the resuming Simon Miller trained Sujet ($1.75 – $2.20 fav) taking on first up victor Chinetti ($3.00 – $2.60) in what looked to be a very even contest. As the gates sprung open disaster struck for both fancied conveyances – Sujet came out slowly and was forced to sit back on the fence, while Chinetti failed to find the front and had to sit two wide without cover. Ignition ($41.00) led to the turn and was quickly gathered in by Chinetti, but the swoopers were lying in wait, and when Jason Whiting muscled Sujet away from the rail and darted between horses, the race was over – the favourite far too good over the concluding stages to score by 1 ¼ lengths.

WATCH: Big runs from Miss Santa Fe and Seul Homme coming from well back to make up the minors – both stay under notice.

PR3). Westspeed HCP 2YO BM59+ 1400m.

Another race of multiple money moves between two fancied runners again had punters on edge in the third, but unlike the prior race success the result would go against them in a breathtaking finish. Fathing Fast ($9.00) led into the straight and powered away from rivals, but quality backmarkers Keysbrook ($3.10) and Top Show ($2.70 fav) were closing in fast, and in the shadows of the post the camera was required to separate the trio. Keysbrook finally got the nod from a gallant Top Show by a nose, with a further neck to Fathing Fast.

WATCH: One more stride and Top Show was winning, and considering the 3 ½ kg swing in the weights against the runner-up – you’d be mad not to get on next start.

PR4). Crown Perth HCP BM72+ 1600m.

Punters were travelling pretty well heading into the final leg of the minor quaddie, and things were about to get a whole lot better courtesy of a masterful ride from veteran jockey Peter Hall. Tower Of Lonhro ($3.10 fav) was well specked in the market following a barnstorming run from nowhere last start when jumping out of the ground late to finish second behind the classy Fancy Feet, but swinging for home the Lonhro 5yo was again in trouble with a wall of horses to negotiate. In what was a stunning combination of experience and patience, Hall struck to his guns – hunting Tower Of Lonhro along the fence as the field panned wide, before a gap presented and charging his mount forward for a runaway 2 ¼ length landslide victory.

WATCH: Really liked the performance of Looking Ahead – last on the turn and forced wide the run to the line was exceptional – big watch on its next start.

PR5). Skyy Vodka HCP BM60+ 1000m.

Heading into the back half of the card no leader had saluted, but that was all about to change and it would be a bold ride from promising apprentice Chris Parnham that would break the drought. Nutted on the line by On The Ropes first up after being four lengths clear at the 100m is not the preferred way to lose a race, but It’s A Merc ($7.50) had proven it was back on track as punters kept the notorious leader safe in the market. In what was a ferocious charge out of the barrier, It’s A Merc burnt up the turf to take command, forcing Bells Tower ($6.00) and public elect Zedfire Express ($3.00 fav) to sit wide and chase. But the chase would be in vain – It’s A Merc clicking up a gear on straightening to race away with a dominant 1 ½ length whitewash.

WATCH: Bells Tower was beaten by the barrier but struck on gamely after sitting wide without cover – huge performance from a very smart horse.

PR6). Perth Racing On Facebook/Twitter BM60+ 1400m.

If ever there was a horse that owed punters a return it is Gladstone ($2.40 fav) – narrowly beaten in its last two starts, punters were keen to balance the ledger in the sixth – alas, once again it was not to be. Hussation ($21.00) led while Gladstone slipped to last and again looked well out of its ground on the turn for home. Meanwhile, Pat Carbery was getting to work mid-field on Trade Down ($5.50) and as the leaders tired, the Trade Fair 4yo proved too good in the straight to hit the line a length clear of Dabang ($13.00), with Fonzarelli ($9.00) flying into third. Gladstone did make up ground late, but had to be content with fourth.

WATCH: Fonzarelli was fractious in the barrier prerace but still performed well at the business end – we will keep an eye on this one.

PR7). Ultimate VIP Raceday This June 3YO BM64+ 1400m.

The Brett Pope trained Bayatorio ($4.00 fav) had been a model of consistency this time in with two wins and two close seconds on the report card, and punters were again prepared to follow that winning form as they decided on a very open affair. Shilling ($8.50) stormed the gates with vigor, but William Pike was also keen to press forward as Bayatorio loomed up to sit outside the leader. A bevy of horses took a handy sit, but the leaders shot clear in the straight – Pike lifting the favourite at the death to score a last stride head triumph. Happy With Kendal ($26.00) did best of the rest to rattle home from seventh to get within a half-length of the winner.

WATCH: Terror Force produced the fastest final sectional coming from last to get within 1 ¾ lengths – super run.

PR8). Get Tour Westspeed Noms In Now BM78+ 1200m.

It is hard to recall the last time we were presented with a BM78+ final race – but despite the fan-fair of quality horses going around in the last, it would be the punters who would steal the show. Smashed out of the park late in the ring, Trading Day ($4.60 – $3.50 fav) was out for revenge following a questionable upheld protest that denied the Trade Fair 4yo victory a fortnight prior, and when Willie White stormed past Thateldo ($6.00) inside the final furlong – justice was done. Fiddlers Elbow ($5.00) was again brave in defeat, flying home from eighth to get within ¾ length.

WATCH: Like Gladstone, Fiddlers Elbow is starting to become expensive to followers this time in, but one cannot deny its fighting qualities – one more go for mine.


Fortunately we were able to build a decent bank early with Ora Dare, Keysbrook, and best bet Tower Of Lonhro all saluting (together with an easy $41.40 minor quaddie), but again it would be Gladstone that would be our worst result – killing our Multi hopes in the last leg. Jumping off It’s A Merc hurt, but laying Trading Day in the last was pure stupidity – costing us the major quaddie in the process. Like most we were forced to change our punting position mid-card, and it doing so – played reasonably safe late in the program.

The Verdict: Definitely on the improve – we’ll take a narrow pass.

Chris Blackwell