16 May 2019
by Ken Casellas
Talented gelding Gee Jay Kay has a history of breaking in running and racing roughly, but his trainer Vicki Lea is delighted that he has overcome those bad habits and is ready to perform strongly in the $50,000 Pearl Classic for three-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Saturday night.
“He’s a different horse now and is more relaxed,” she said. “Before, he was quite angry and uptight and did things wrong in his races. When he was hopping and skipping, he was an angry horse.
“He’s come a long way; he’s had some feet issues and we’ve worked through them and now we are just waiting for everything to fall into place. His whole attitude has changed and he’s now a happy horse.
“It’s been a matter of what works for him. He’s a horse who is always busy; he’s always thinking and looking, and he doesn’t miss a trick. It’s been a matter of trying to find that niche for him which we think we’ve found.
“We are happy with the way he’s coming along. He is starting to mature and has discovered what he’s meant to be doing. Barrier seven on Saturday night is not ideal, but we’re not the only ones who have drawn a difficult barrier. I think he should be thereabouts.”
Gee Jay Kay, to be driven by master reinsman Chris Lewis, looks one of the main chances, along with Aldo Cortopassi’s Theo Aviator, the Colin Brown-trained pair of Its Rock And Roll and Patrickthepiranha and Justin Prentice’s Back In Twenty.
Gee Jay Kay warmed up for the classic in good style with an effortless victory in a 2130m event at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night when he started from barrier four and raced without cover before taking a narrow lead 450m from home and cruising to the line to win, untouched by Lewis, from Jiving Jolt and the pacemaker Jilliby Jake.
He could have gone considerably faster, but Lewis was quite content to give him an easy run in the breeze, with a very slow lead time of 39sec. and meandering opening quarters of 31.4sec. and 30.7sec. before he dashed over the final 400m sections in 28.8sec. and 27.9sec.
The win improved Gee Jay Kay’s record to 15 starts for five wins and seven placings for earnings of $37,374 and he looks set for a bright future, with his chief mission as a four-year-old the prestigious Golden Nugget championship.
The Pearl Classic was robbed of considerable interest with the absence of brilliant New Zealand-bred colt Franco Edward, who notched his 11th win from 18 starts when he set the pace and scored an easy victory at a 1.56.1 rate over 2130m in a qualifying heat of the classic on Tuesday of last week.
Trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper said that the colt had been sent for a spell, explaining: “He’s been up for a while and has had a few little niggles. I wasn’t quite happy with him. He has been impressive in recent starts and racing in good form, but I think that was just because he is a high-calibre horse.
“He wasn’t quite right and has gone to the paddock to make sure he gets the best opportunity to come back as a very good four-year-old. I wasn’t quite happy with the way he pulled up after his latest win, so I sent him to the paddock for a well-earned spell. The main concern is the horse and his well-being and to make sure he has a bright and long future.
“It’s disappointing because I’m sure he would have been very competitive and hard to beat in the Pearl. There are still some classy horses in the race and some of the higher-assessed horses are drawn awkwardly. I think the one to follow could be Back In Twenty; he’s the one I like.”
Back In Twenty, to be driven by Gary Hall Jnr, will start from the outside barrier (No. 2) on the back line and is capable of unwinding a strong finishing burst. He has led and won at two of his past three starts.
Brown is hoping for a change of luck with Its Rock And Roll, who will start out wide at barrier eight on the front line. The gelding is a stout-hearted performer who has raced seven times this season for five placings after winning four times as a two-year-old.
Patrickthepiranha, to be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green, is sure to be tested from the outside barrier (No. 9) but has the class to overcome this disadvantage. He won at his first seven appearances as a three-year-old before unplaced runs at his past three outings. His was last in a field of 12 in the middle stages before finishing solidly to finish seventh behind Franco Edward in the heart of the Pearl.
“That was the best he’s hit the line at his past three starts,” said Egerton-Green. “He was racing a little bit flat going into the Derby two starts ago (when sixth behind Major Trojan) and then had a bit of a let-up and he’s come back a lot sharper.”
Cortopassi said he was pleased with Theo Aviator’s last-start fourth behind Franco Edward when the gelding had a tough run, racing three wide early and then in the breeze. Theo Aviator, a winner at ten of his 26 starts, will begin from barrier four in the front line and Cortopassi aims to use the gelding’s gate speed in a bid for the early lead.