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By Graham Potter | Sunday, April 30, 2023

The David Vandyke trained Weona Smartone has always been a very useful racehorse.

Or maybe that is an understatement.

Afterall, after getting the feel of things when beaten on debut, the son of Shamexpress did win his next eight starts in a row, going from Maiden winner to an Open Handicap winner over the course of three preparations which left him unbeaten for thirteen months (from December 2021 to January 2022).

That winning sequence was broken with his fifth placed finish behind Niedorp in an Open Handicap on January 29, 2022, after which Weona Smartone was away from race action for a full seven and a half months before resuming … and resuming his winning ways with a solid win in a $100 000 Quality Open Handicap at Doomben on September 10.

The next run … a third place finish on October 1 … was just a sighter for his upcoming Sydney campaign in which Weona Smartone would be asked to step up into the hotter cauldron of Group company, hitting the big time in the $2 million Sydney Stakes. (Read story here … WEONA SMARTONE SHINES IN GROUP 3 COMPANY (October 15)

Following that huge effort in the Sydney Stakes, Vandyke raised the bar again for Weona Smartone, this time setting the $3 million Nature Strip Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on October 29 as the target where he again performed with distinction when landing fourth place behind the likes of the Group 2 Gilgai winner Private Eye (Private Eye also finished second behind Giga Kick in The Everest), the Doomben 10 000 winner Mazu and the old Godolphin warhorse Kementari.

Weona Smartone was then given a well-deserved break before returning to action in the Group 3 Star Kingdom Stakes on March 25 … a race turned out to be a non-event for his connections.

As per the official stewards’ report, ‘Weona Smartone – When questioned R Maloney stated that it was the intention to ride the horse in or near the lead in accordance with its regular racing pattern however the gelding which was standing quietly in the barrier began very awkwardly, stumbled and lost ground at the start. He added that when racing in an unfamiliar position back in the field Weona Smartone commenced to race fiercely and got its head up approaching the 800m. He added that Weona Smartone continued to race ungenerously with its head up throughout the middle stages and when placed under pressure in the early part of the straight Weona Smartone did not give any response. He said that as he felt the horse was awkward in its action, he eased it down over the final 200m as he was concerned it may have sustained an injury in the incident at the start. A post-race veterinary examination revealed no abnormalities.’

The record books might show a last place finish there, twelve lengths behind the winner, but that clearly was a ‘you can draw a line through that run’ result.

Thankfully, with nothing untoward found, Weona Smartone was able to continue on to Queensland’s richest regional provincial race, the $775 000 The Archer at Rockhampton on April 30 … a race where the final field is made up of runners selected by twelve slot holders.

Weona Smartone went into The Archer as a $9.50 chance and Ryan Maloney wasn’t going to die wondering as he stretched Weona Smartone out early from the wide number eight barrier draw to ease into lead after the field had covered the first 200m.

With Part 1 of the plan successfully completed, Maloney put Part 2 in operation by rating Weona Smartone well in front being mindful of the fact that it is long run-in in the home straight at Rockhampton.

Part 3 was to find the finish to repel all challenges. Maloney stacked them up to some degree halfway up the straight before asking Weona Smartone for a big finishing effort with 250 left to run.

With 150m left to run it looked as if Part 3 of the plan was going to go as well as Part’s 1 and 2 had done but, over the concluding stages Alpine Edge and Emerald Kingdom flashed up late on either side of the Vandyke trained runner with Alpine Edge ultimately getting the nod in by the narrowest of margins, relegating last year’s Archer winner Emerald Kingdom into second place with Weona Smartone having to settle for third, just under a quarter of a length behind the winner.

Another case of ‘no cigar’ for Weona Smartone … but also another case of him doing himself and the stable proud.

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Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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