Master trainer Gary Hall Snr is poised to notch a remarkable twelfth victory in the $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night, despite his champion pacer Chicago Bull drawing awkwardly at barrier seven in the 2936m Group 1 feature event.
“It’s a tricky draw and tricky drive, but I’m confident that the horse and the driver are up to it,” he said.
Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, aiming for his ninth Pacing Cup win, said that Chicago Bull’s great versatility would be the key to success.
“Barrier seven makes life a bit harder, but it could’ve been worse,” said Hall Jnr. “I’m pretty happy where the others (main dangers) have drawn. Before the draw, most people were considering that Chicago Bull would be a short-priced favourite.
“Now, I don’t think that the draw should alter his price. That’s my level of confidence. If we had drawn one or two it would have been just a sit and steer job.
“I have no preconceived plans; that’s the beauty of Chicago Bull, he’s versatile. I could blast off the gate if I wanted to. If I did, he would relax and come back to me.”
Hall Snr predicted that Chicago Bull would have to work in the breeze, saying: “I can’t see that the breeze won’t be up for grabs at some stage. I can’t fault him and I’m not upset that he was beaten last week (when he raced without cover over the final 1500m and fought on determinedly to finish a half-head second to the pacemaker Perfect Major in the 2130m RWWA Cup).”
Hall Jnr named Jack Farthing and Perfect Major as two of Chicago Bull’s most serious rivals.
Jack Farthing, prepared by Justin Prentice and to be driven by champion reinsman Chris Lewis, drew perfectly at barrier one, but the Ross Olivieri-trained Perfect Major’s prospects slumped after he drew out wide at barrier eight.
“I’ll say Jack Farthing will come out, and he has the speed to hold the lead, for sure,” said Prentice. “Then I’ll leave it up to Chris from there. It will be a massive advantage if we can find the rails this week. Chris was really happy with his latest run (fifth behind Chicago Bull in the Fremantle Cup), and he has worked super since then.
“Jack Farthing’s final half (800m) was the second fastest in the Fremantle Cup (when he ran on from eighth at the bell).”
Kevin Jeavons, managing part-owner of Jack Farthing, is expecting a strong performance from the New Zealand-bred five-year-old. “He is extremely fast, and no horse could beat him for early speed in all his runs at Menangle,” he said. “He will be coming out hard on Friday night.”
Hall Jnr said that he was confident that Perfect Major would not beat Chicago Bull for the second week in a row, saying: “If Perfect Major somehow miraculously ended up in front, he’s going to have to do too much to get there. I still think he’s dangerous in the field, but it is hard to see him getting over Chicago Bull if he’s behind me, or even if he’s ahead of me and I’m tracking him up.
“I didn’t want to draw a tricky gate and have Perfect Major drawing one. He could go good enough, leading, but I thought I could beat him. But then I could be left open to something else. That was my only concern.
“Outside of Perfect Major, I think Jack Farthing is a danger. You have to respect him. I know he can get a bit keen, but if he can settle, he could be a danger. I know he has got the ability.”
Olivieri, who prepared Saab for his WA Pacing Cup victory over Our Sir Vancelot in 1999, admitted that the wide barrier seriously affected Perfect Major’s chances of victory. But he has not given up hope and said that Perfect Major would strip a better and fitter horse than he did last week when he was an all-the-way winner over Chicago Bull in the RWWA Cup.
“He worked by himself at Byford this morning (Tuesday) better than he did before last week’s win,” Olivieri said. “Voaky (reinsman Chris Voak) said that he was sharper and wanted to do more. Perfect Major ran two seconds faster than he did in last week’s workout.”
Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who won the WA Pacing Cup last January when $5.50 chance Mighty Conqueror, driven by Dylan Egerton-Green, beat stablemate Vampiro by a head, and with other stablemates Our Jimmy Johnstone finishing third, Galactic Star fifth, Our Alfie Romeo sixth, El Jacko seventh and Ana Malak ninth, hold a strong hand this year with four runners Mighty Conqueror (barrier two), Vampiro (four), Our Jimmy Johnstone (five) and Galactic Star (No. 2 on the back line).
The Bond-trained Ocean Ridge was chosen in the field and draw the No. 5 barrier. But he was scratched on Wednesday, which enabled the first emergency Our Jimmy Johnstone to gain a start from barrier five.
This will be the veteran pacer’s fifth appearance in the WA Pacing Cup. He was fourth behind My Hard Copy in the 2015 Cup, 11th behind Chicago Bull in 2017, fifth behind Rocknroll Lincoln in 2019 and third behind Mighty Conqueror last January.
Greg Bond said he was hoping for better luck than the misfortune he experienced in the Fremantle Cup last Friday week when Mighty Conqueror met with severe interference soon after the start when he locked sulky wheels with stablemate Vampiro and then raced at the rear and finished last.
“We’ll push forward from barrier two in a bid to get to the front,” said Bond, who is confident of a strong showing from Galactic Star, who impressed in the Fremantle Cup when he was sixth at the bell and finished powerfully to be second to Chicago Bull. He will be driven by Ryan Warwick, who has yet to taste success in a WA Pacing Cup.
Veteran trainer Ray Williams has high hopes of winning the Cup with the inexperienced, but richly talented four-year-old To Fast To Serious, who will be handled by Aldo Cortopassi from the inside of the back line.
To Fast To Serious has won at 13 of his 20 starts and was an unlucky third in the RWWA Cup last Friday night when he trailed the pacemaker Perfect Major and was badly blocked for a clear run until the final stages.
The WA-bred To Fast To Serious will be only the second Pacing Cup runner prepared by Williams, who also will be represented in this week’s event by Convert Denario, a rank outsider from the outside of the back line who will be driven by Aiden de Campo. Williams prepared Pacific Warrior when he was a most unlucky fifth behind My Hard Copy in the 2015 Cup when he has hopelessly blocked for a clear run throughout the final circuit.
“The long distance won’t worry To Fast To Serious,” Williams said. “He can go two miles and we would love it if the pace is on. He hit the line really good last week and would have gone even better if Aldo (Cortopassi) didn’t have to go back to come around.”
Williams son Grant has driven two winners of the WA Pacing Cup, scoring with Admirals Avenue (2000) and Maheer Lord (2006). He also was the trainer of Maheer Lord.
Tough stayer Vultan Tin has drawn barrier three for part-owner and trainer Phil Costello, who has engaged Shannon Suvaljko to drive the hardy eight-year-old. Vultan Tin started from the outside of the back line in the WA Pacing Cup last January when he raced at the rear and finished tenth.
“He is fitter than he was last January, and he ran the fastest half-mile when seventh in the Fremantle Cup two weeks ago,” said Costello.
Trainer Michael Brennan and reinsman Michael Grantham will be pinning their faith in big five-year-old gelding Braeview Bondi, who set the pace and won from American Brave over 2130m last Friday week, while Lindsay Harper, who trained and drove Havago to victory in the 2001 WA Pacing Cup, will handle the Stephen Reed-trained Bletchley Park, who faces a tough task from barrier No. 9.