MENTALLY tougher and keen to make up for missed Miracle Mile chances, Lauren Panella has warned against writing off her chances with Menangle specialist Suave Stuey Lombo in the $750,000 race on Saturday night.
The leading driver in NSW with 62 wins from 160 starts this season, Panella will add a Miracle Mile appearance to her career highlights when she steers the Shane Tritton-trained Suave Stuey Lombo from barrier seven.
Despite Suave Stuey Lombo’s status as the fastest pacer in Australia and last week’s impressive Cordina Sprint victory, he has been largely discarded by bookmakers and punters after drawing wide for the eight-horse group 1 feature.
A $9 hope with NSW TAB Sportsbet before the draw, the seven-year-old gelding had blown out to $16 on fixed odds on Friday.
‘‘The things that have happened, the mistakes that were made, it mentally makes you tougher.’’- – LAUREN PANELLA
Panella was not surprised when Suave Stuey Lombo, which was fourth in the Newcastle Mile three weeks ago, drifted in markets but she remained quietly confident of his chances.
‘‘I knew he would because there is so much speed inside him,’’ Panella said of the market moves. ‘‘But they are all going on the Newcastle Mile, when Avonnova held him out, but he didn’t come out that night. He wasn’t right that night.
‘‘But at Menangle, he loves that track.’’
Panella and Keinbah trainer Tritton, who has Easy On The Eye from gate one, have made no secret of their intention to get their pacers to the front and set a cracking speed for the class field to chase.
While the David Morris-driven Easy On The Eye ($35) has been given little hope of holding on, Panella believes Suave Stuey Lombo can upset the likes of defending champion Beautide ($1.70) and Kiwi hope Christian Me ($4.20).
‘‘Barrier draws don’t really mean anything to me,’’ she said.
‘‘We always drive our horses the same anyway, but it’s not scaring me from going forward.
‘‘I have the option to go forward and I think I am a lot quicker from out wider at Menangle with Stuey.’’
The Holmesville-raised reinswoman has won nine of her 10 drives with Suave Stuey Lombo over the mile at Menangle, which has included two victories in one minute 50.1 seconds this campaign.
The only loss with the front-running star came when he galloped on September 6 and finished 400 metres last.
Two days later, Suave Stuey Lombo clocked a remarkable 1:49.2 – the second-fastest mile in Australasian pacing history – in a trial at the track.
Panella believed the sometimes flighty pacer’s love of open spaces was a factor in his impressive record at the big Menangle track.
‘‘I think he’s claustrophobic, to be honest,’’ she said.
‘‘He’s always very iffy and touchy.
‘‘When we go to wash him his heart rate monitor will go up 20 points if someone even touches the hose. It’s crazy.
‘‘So I think in Menangle’s open space, even though there’s a big crowd, they can’t really see anyone there, and he likes it.’’
Panella said she was thrilled to have a drive in the marquee event after she missed both editions of the race in 2013 due to suspension.
She was denied a stay of proceedings to drive Gaius Caesar for Darren Binskin in the first Miracle Mile of 2013 and was set to steer Mach Beauty for Tritton in the second race last November.
The Miracle Mile drive comes after a record-breaking 2013-14 season and flying start to this campaign for the 21-year-old.
She became the first female driver and first from the Hunter to claim the NSW metropolitan premiership, winning 49 races to be 23.5 clear of her nearest rival.
This year, Panella and Tritton have 62 and 60 wins respectively statewide to lead the NSW premierships by 29 and 34 victories just three months into the season.
‘‘Shane and I’s combination is pretty lethal,’’ Panella said.
‘‘We’ve had one hell of a ride last season, and this season I think we’ve kicked off to be 30 winners in front, both of us.
‘‘But we just take it as it comes and keep working hard and hope for the best.’’
Panella’s history-making season came despite missing more than three months due to suspensions, which included an eight-week ban for causing interference aboard Mach Beauty in the Interdominion grand final.
The suspensions were part of a challenging season for Panella but she believed the setbacks had help make her a better driver.
‘‘The things that have happened, the mistakes that were made, it mentally makes you tougher,’’ she said.
‘‘And physically, Shane’s horses are 500 kilos of horses who run on pure adrenaline.
‘‘So it’s made me physically and mentally tougher, I’d have to say.
‘‘But the support from Shane and his family and my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.’’
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