By Duane Ranger
Two weeks’ quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 virus didn’t stop Stanmore horseman Darren Weeks from training an impressive winner at Albion Park last week.
Weeks, who returned from New Zealand last Monday (a day after the 14-day self-quarantine regulation was imposed) watched his speedy pacer, Speech Is Silver, comfortably take out Friday’s seventh race.
Usually trackside, he had to settle for the TV set this time around.
“He’s an impressive horse, who has high speed and a quick turn of foot,” Weeks said.
“That’s his fourth win in five starts here since he was exported from Mark Purdon’s New Zealand stable in June last year.”
Coincidentally, Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen joined Weeks and his partner, Kyle Rasmussen, in Queenstown, New Zealand.
The younger of the three Rasmussen sisters, Vicki and her partner, Brian, also rendezvoused with her siblings in Central Otago.
“If we had known about the self isolation we might have left earlier, but we weren’t to know, and now we are working our team (about 30) from 4am to 2pm, and then we have to vacate the property before staff get here,” Weeks said.
“It’s not been easy, and I’ll be glad to get the fortnight out of the way but that win was pleasing because Speech Is Silver is a very nice pacer.”
Angus Garrard was called in to drive Speech Is Silver for the first time due to Kylie Rasmussen’s self-isolation, and he termed the bay one of the best he’s driven since getting his licence last year.
“He’s a very, very good horse - he has unbelievable speed and turn of foot, and peels off fast quarters - unlike most horses,” Garrard said.
Those quarters were 27.4, 30.6, 28.9, and 27.7, which equated to a 1:54.3 mile rate for the 1660 metre mobile (1:57.9).
Garrard had Speech Is Silver one-out-and-three-back not long after starting from two on the second line.
With 500m remaining, they made their move three-wide and in the home straight it was just a matter of how much they would win by.
Speech Is Silver has now won five of his six starts and finished sixth in the other, since making his Queensland debut with a 7.1m win back in July.
“We’ve got a real solid opinion of him and he’s right up there with Lilac Flash and Smart As Camm Be as the best in our barn,” Weeks said.
“He can get over the ground real quick, however we did spell him after he ran sixth in October.
“He drew one that night and Kylie asked him to come out of the gate and he contacted sulky wheels and didn’t like it.
“He ran himself into the ground, so we spelled him, and then a virus hit our barn, so he’s only really coming back to it now.”
He said the Mach Three 5-year-old gelding would now attempt to go through the grades at Albion Park, with the Winter Carnival his goal.
“Because he can cover a lot of ground in quick time, we could take him out of State, but for now we are happy getting him back to peak race fitness,” Weeks said.
“He’s got all the ingredients to go a long way, but you know in racing anything can happen, so it’s just one day at a time for him.”
Speech Is Silver, who has recorded a 1:53.8 mile rate, is owned by The Rasmussen sisters’ Mum, Cheryl.
Mark Purdon’s two Canterbury-based clients Phil and Glenys Kennard also have a share.
"I bought him not long after he was sold at the Yearling Sales in Auckland because I liked the Mach Threes,” Cheryl Rasmussen said.
“He came up for sale at Mark's (Purdon) stable and via Natalie (daughter) I decided to take a share with Phil and Glenys Kennard."
The Kennards, who owned dual New Zealand Cup winner, Lazarus, paid $17,500 for Speech Is Silver at the 2016 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka in South Auckland.
Speech is Silver is the first foal out of the two-win 2014 Grinfromeartoear mare, Silence Is Golden, who was bred by Dr Tony Parker in South Auckland, and hails from the same family as multiple Group One winning pacers, Auckland Reactor and Devil Dodger.
“The horse came over with Self Assured, Jesse Duke, and Princess Tiffany when Mark (Purdon) came over for the Winter Carnival and that’s when Kylie got him,” Cheryl Rasmussen said.
After qualifying at Addington Raceway in March 2017, Speech Is Silver then had three races in New Zealand between March 25 and November 2, 2018.
The bay won his middle assignment at Addington Raceway on October 19, 2018 by almost four lengths as the $1.80 favourite.
Speech Is Silver took no time settling into Australia, winning both of his trials at Albion Park on July 16 and 23 last year.
He then won first-up by 7.3 metres as the $1.06 hot favourite at ‘The Creek’ on July 30, where he paced a 1:56.2 mile rate.