One of the favourite programs of the Belmont Park season would have to be Italian Day, featuring the $125,000 Group 3 Roma Cup 1200m – a classic weight for age six furlong contest that attracts the state’s best sprinters. Past winners include mighty horses like Doctor Golly, Grand Nirvana, and Luckygray and today would see another name added to the Roma Cup honour-roll. It was another tough day for the back-markers as all victors bar one (Angel Wing) came from mid-field or better. Shaun O’Donnell did best of the jocks with a text book ride aboard Go Tiger for Fred Kersley in the third, before guiding the aptly named Long Over Due to a narrow victory for Donna Riordan in the fifth. Promising apprentice Chris Parnham made the most of his return to weekend racing (following an injury enforced layoff) with a spirited ride aboard Celebrity Miss for Grant Williams, while hoop Willie White was full of emotion following his success with Trading Day in the last following the passing of trainer John Wilson Snr during the week. Of the trainers, the day went to Jim Taylor who prepared the magnificent mare Magnifisio for an emphatic victory in the Roma Cup feature.
PR1). Del Basso Smallgoods 2YO BM60+ 1000m.
There was no more an expected result for the day than that of Universal Ruler gelding Rebel King ($1.16 fav) follow its procession-like victory a fortnight prior. Ben Kennedy took the ride, and when the duo hit the ground running to take up the lead, the writing was on the wall. Our Memory Girl ($10.00) tried to go with the raging favourite, but Kennedy had a handful of horse – one tap on the posterior at the 200m was all that was required to record another emphatic four length hiding.
WATCH: Really liked the run of Circle Of Friends who finished off the race well into second – there will be a race for it soon on that run.
PR2). Del Basso Italian Day BM60+ 1000m.
The biggest money move of the day came in the second, with punters heavily supporting the Kalgoorlie trained Delray Beach ($8.00 – $3.80 fav) into outright favouritism. But the result would go to apprentice hoop Chris Parnham in his return weekend ride, with a magical performance aboard Celebrity Miss ($4.60). Sitting midfield in the running, Parnham made a split second decision to press his mount through a needle-eye opening between horses at the 250m – and once through – gathered Wombie’s Legacy ($15.00) inside the final 100m to race away with a cheeky 1 ½ length victory.
WATCH: Delray Beach raced wide throughout and hit the line hard – definitely one to follow.
PR3). Del Basso Import & Export P/L BM66+ 2100m.
As punters licked their wounds after being fleeced in the race prior, they were eager to extract revenge – and they wouldn’t have to wait long. The Fred Kersley trained Go Tiger ($3.30 – $2.90 fav) had performed well this time in, and was a stride off saluting last start when unable to run down the classy Ora Dare. Jockey Shaun O’Donnell was keen to place the Tiger Hill 4yo closer to the speed today, and bound the gates to take a sit behind notorious leader Fa’em ($31.00). With the “sweet seat” secured, O’Donnell produced Go Tiger as they turned for home – kicking clear to grab a handy break and cross the line with a length and a half up his sleeve.
WATCH: Desert Glow has been a model of consistency with good runs in the recent country cups and a game performance again today – should win in town soon.
PR4). Italo – Australia Welfare/Cultural Centre 3YO BM64+ 1000m.
Two resuming favourites of the punters caught most of the fiscal attention in the fourth, with Arcadia Rose ($2.60 fav) and Chinetti ($4.70) dominating the market following impressive recent trial performances. And again the money would be right, albeit not in the finishing order predicted. You Will Be Queen ($18.00) led as expected, with Arcadia Rose tucked away in fifth, while Chinetti was forced to race wide with limited cover. Jockey Mitchell Pateman had Chinetti in a dire position as he peeled three wide on turning, but the Bletchley Park gelding unleashed a dazzling turn of foot to space rivals and storm to the line for an impressive 1 ¾ length triumph. Arcadia Rose did rally late to capture second in a five horse blanket finish for the minors.
WATCH: No horse worked harder than Chinetti – should string a series of victories together once again.
PR5). Italian Coc & Industry 3YO BM61+ 1600m.
There is nothing worse than sitting back after a race scratching your head in disbelief as an appropriately named horse salutes at odds – and you kick yourself for not having at least a small investment to cover the “just in case”… There have been many horses aptly named to suggest they are going to win – they obviously don’t win all their races, but they have an amazing habit of getting up when you least expect it. And such was the case today for the very overdue Due Sasso gelding Long Over Due ($21.00). It had been 212 days since the Donna Riordan trained 3yo had won its maiden race at Northam, but when Shaun O’Donnell shot the roughie straight to the front and proceeded to run the field ragged – we were all left a bit shell-shocked.
WATCH: Run For Rum was slightly inconvenienced when it tried to get away from the rail as they turned – the loss of momentum costing it the race.
PR6). Skyracing.TV Prov. Championship BM62+ 1400m.
The first of the “raffle races” came in the second leg of the quaddie, with a promising bunch of provincial performers engaged in a very open affair over the seven furlongs. And to reinforce the difficulty in finding that elusive winner, the conclusion would see three quarters of a length split the first six across the line. They came from everywhere inside the final 50m – Angel Wing ($11.00) flooding home from near last put the bob that mattered for a breath-taking half-head victory. Point To The Sky ($9.00) and Anywhere Express ($18.00) could only be considered dead unlucky to finish in the minors. Those famous words are still echoing in my head – “When in doubt – go the top weight” – alas not in this one.
WATCH: Another grinding performance from Big Red’s Back – forced to race wide with no cover throughout – to get within a long head was exceptional.
PR7). $125,000 Del Basso Smallgoods Group 3 Roma Cup WFA 1200m.
To the race we had all been waiting for – this year’s Roma Cup found punters physically distressed, as it took most of the afternoon to split the two most fancied runners – one the young up and comer – the other the master campaigner. And again we would be in for another desperate finale as the camera was required to separate the first five to finish. Trainer Jim Taylor had his classy Magnus mare Magnifisio ($2.25 fav) in career best form coming into today’s feature, with dominant recent victories in the RS Crawford Stakes, the Summer Scorcher, and the Northam Stakes. But despite the bevy of silverware accumulated, Magnifisio would start the challenger, for today it was meeting multiple Group 1 and 2012 Roma Cup victor Luckygray ($2.60) for the first time. Jason Brown stormed forward with Magnifisio to sit outside Belmont Park specialist Settle Strada ($19.00), and entering the straight produced its trademark turn of foot to outlast the fast finishing Elite Belle ($14.00) by a head. The conclusion was gripping – Checkpoint ($12.00) was a short neck away in third – a further neck to the luckless Luckygray in fourth, with Ranger flashing into fifth a further long neck astern.
WATCH: There were so many good runs in this race and we can’t mention them all, but Elite Belle caught the eye.
PR8). Del Basso Smallgoods Est.1957 BM72+ 1200m.
Devine intervention has been a very big part of horse racing throughout history. The sad passing of John Wilson Snr during the week would provide the script for the next chapter of posthumous victories, and it would be a brave ride from Willie White that would provide the ultimate honour. The Trade Fair 4yo Trading Days ($7.00) – trained by Wilson Snr – was resuming from a stellar last preparation and a solid recent trial, and when White charged his mount forward in the shadows of post to find a ¾ margin, we all stood and applauded the fitting end to Italian Day at Belmont.
WATCH: Big run from Fiddlers Elbow coming from near last to dash into third – will be winning again very soon.
It was hard to not get excited when we had the first four winners on the board, but the celebrations would be short lived. Best bet Celebrity Miss ($4.60) and the heavily tipped Chinetti ($4.70) helped build a solid bank, but when eachway fancy Run For Rum lost momentum on the turn, our four leg Multi was dashed. Scratching’s plagued the quaddie so we gave it a miss (thank God – we would have been out in the first leg), and our Maddie Settle Strada imploded to run a disappointing last in the feature. The back half of the card didn’t overly appeal from a punting perspective, and when we were tipped three horses (Darlington Abbey, Heavy Set, and Looking Ahead) to salute in the last – with none of them getting up, we were more than happy to pull up stumps ahead for the day. The Verdict: A definite pass – very glad we kept our early winnings intact.