Day At The Track

Gary Hall Snr gets 3000th training win

09:30 AM 02 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Gary Hall Snr,Harness racing
Gary Hall Snr

The win of Highly Flammable at Gloucester Park tonight brought up the 3000th career win for trainer Gary Hall Snr and he is the first trainer in Western Australia to achieve this milestone.

Somewhat remarkably Highly Flammable wasn’t driven by Hall’s son Gary Hall Jnr with Maddison Brown taking the drive.

Hall brought up win number 3001 later in the night when Robbie Easton saluted with Gary Hall Jnr at the reins.

It was win number 1733 for the father/son combination and Robbie Easton became Hall Snr’s 2246th winner in Perth.

The fascination of Gary Hall for harness racing began in 1964 when he used to sneak out of his family home in Mount Lawley and ride his pushbike to Gloucester Park on a Saturday night.

Hall and a mate would jump the fence into the course and boost their meagre funds per medium of betting on the horses that graced the track during its halcyon days. Hall was the form student and his mate closer to the legal betting age.

“I remember having five shillings on a horse called Yamagee that paid three pounds seventeen and six for the place and I thought it was Christmas”, Hall recalled years later.

After building his bank to a bit more than 30 pounds, Hall took a fancy to a gelding called Prince Land and had his mate put ten pounds on the horse.

“He told me that he had managed to get 66/1 and the bookie hadn’t wound the price down. I gave him another ten pounds for a second bet at the price”.

The horse duly won and Hall was counting out his £1320 winnings on his bed at home when he was sprung by his mother who was more than a little concerned at where the money had come from.

Hall came clean and after that night his parents would take him to Gloucester Park.

After leaving school Hall got a job as a trainee auctioneer at the Midland saleyards where he met Arthur Jones.

Jones, known to all and sundry as Buck, was enjoying success at the time with a gelding called Satin Son and Hall soon began jogging horses for Jones.

Like all stable-hands who aspired to being drivers, Hall bought a quiet gelding and went through the Reinsman’s School at Gloucester Park under the tutelage of Cyril Lilleyman.

He got his licence to drive in races as an 18yo at a time when driving concessions and junior driver races didn’t exist.

Drives were hard to come by and Hall began leasing and training a couple of horses, starting with Silent Revel which he managed to run a couple of places with without winning.

A mare called Plebette gave Hall his first win as a trainer when she won at Collie on 5th March 1971

Tobaree gave Hall his first success at Gloucester Park as both a trainer and driver when she won on 16th September 1972.

Hall continued to work a regular job as he had a young family to support and a job as a clerk in Perth’s Crown Law Department saw him meet Crown Prosecutor Ron Davies who was equally as big a harness fanatic as Hall.

In 1982 Hall’s direction in harness racing was changed when Ron Davies gave him a position as his private trainer and this gave Hall the confidence to branch out on his own as a public trainer in 1983.

Another big change occurred for Hall in 1982 but the impact wasn’t quite so immediate. His son Gary was born and from the outset developed a similar obsession with horses to that of his father.

With a young family to support, Hall struggled to make ends meet until he leased Maru Adios which had not been placed in three years.

Hall turned the gelding around and in his first year at Hall’s Hazelmere stables, Maru Adios won 11 races and almost $39,000 in stakes. Soon owners began to recognise a training talent and better quality horses began to become available.

Among them was a Racy Prince stallion called Vero Prince which won six on end and was favourite for the 1986 Golden Nugget Championship before Hall copped a disqualification for a swab.

“I was never guilty of giving the horse anything. I may have been guilty of having inadequate stable security but never of giving anything to my horses”, Hall said.

Hall managed to get the 12 months penalty reduced to three on appeal but he had lost the momentum and again had to battle to put a team of competitive horses together.

Well-known breeder Roy Annear offered to lease Hall a 3yo colt by Racy Prince from the good race-mare Honest Talk with an option to purchase for $5,000.

Hall had a couple of smart youngsters at the time in Love Of Glory and Almagest and Hall decided that the Racy Prince colt would have his first run with hopples with the pair.

“I got the young stable-hand to drive the colt with instructions to follow us around and not be too concerned if he struggled to keep up in the last lap”, Hall recalled.

No one was more surprised than Hall when the colt sprinted past his more illustrious stable-mates in the last lap. Hall, and good mate Glen Moore, exercised the option of purchase the next day.

Named Zakara, the colt went on to win 44 of his 134 starts and more than $477,000 in stakes including the historic feat of winning four successive August Cups.

Zakara was the first outstanding horse trained by Hall and he gave Hall a taste of just what success was there for the taking if the horse had the natural ability.

“I don’t train any differently now to what I did when I started in the sixties but the horses I train now have a lot more ability that what the early ones did”.

“I am basically self-taught and although I have watched other trainers closely I have made up my own mind of what is best for each horse. Phil Coulson and Fred Kersey have had a major influence on my training.”

Hall believes there is no substitute for plenty of hard work and aerobic work in a jog cart in the sand.

“My horses are strong which they need to be if they are to be put into a race”, Hall said.

Putting his horses into a race was a characteristic of Gary Hall’s driving style and although he has driven more than 600 winners he was never regarded as a great driver.

His record as a trainer is second to none and he has obliterated the training records of the previous Western Australian benchmarks Fred Kersley and Trevor Warwick and has trained 600 more winners than his current closest rival Ross Olivieri.

Hall is the leading trainer in the 106 year history of the WA Pacing Cup having trained 11 winners of the race. He is also the leading trainer in the history of the Fremantle Cup with eight wins in that race.

Zakara gave Hall a taste for Grand Circuit racing when the stallion finished third to Imprimartar and Time Symbol in the 1991 Fremantle Cup.

A month later Zakara finished fourth in the famous 1992 WA Pacing Cup behind Westburn Grant, Franco Ice and Imprimartar and this prompted Hall to take the horse to Victoria where he finished third in the 1992 Victoria Cup behind Franco Ice and Impressionist.

“Zakara was the first really good horse I had and he would have had a better record if I hadn’t stuffed four or five big races driving him”, a reflective Hall said some years later.

On 16th July 1998 Hall watched his son Gary celebrate his 16th birthday that afternoon by driving Enhancer to victory at Pinjarra. It was the first of more than 1730 winners for the combination and the younger Hall’s aptitude at the reins hastened his father’s scaling back from driving duties.

Hall imported his first New Zealand horses in the early nineties but it wasn’t 2001 that he struck the jackpot with the arrival of a 3yo colt called The Falcon Strike.

Racing in New Zealand as Falcon Strike, the son of Falcon Seelster had finished fifth to Franco Heir in the Group One New Zealand Sires Stakes before being sold to clients of Hall’s stable.

The Falcon Strike was the early favourite for the WA Derby after winning his first four races in Perth including the Group Three Western Gateway Pace but a chequered run in the Derby saw him finish down the track behind the interstate runners Manifold Bay and Franco Heir.

Manifold Bay again proved his nemesis eight months later in the 2001 Group One Golden Nugget Championship after The Falcon Strike had won seven of his eight starts leading into the race including the Group Three McInerney Ford Classic.

While Manifold Bay was to only win one further Group One race, the 4yo Chariots of Fire at Harold Park in February 2002, The Falcon Strike won both the Group One WA Pacing Cup and Group One Fremantle Cup as a 4yo and then backed that up with a further two WA Pacing Cups, two Australian Pacing Championships and a second Fremantle Cup in the ensuing three seasons.

Zakara was Hall’s first runner in an Inter Dominion series when he took part in the 1992 Championship held at Moonee Valley.

He was placed third in two heats behind Christopher Vance and Lord Muckalee before he struck trouble in the third round of heats and just missed a spot in the final won by Westburn Grant. He started favourite and finished fourth in the consolation won by Imperial Atom.

Twelve years later on his home circuit of Gloucester Park, Gary Hall went within the virtual nostril of winning the Inter Dominion when The Falcon Strike was beaten in the last stride by Jofess.

It was an even more remarkable performance given the work Hall had put in to get The Falcon Strike back to the track after an absence of more than 14 months following a fifth placing in the 2002 Victoria Cup won by Safe And Sound.

The Falcon Strike broke down that night and didn’t resume racing until April 2003 and for the remainder of his career Hall needed all his experience to keep the stallion sound and fit to compete at the highest level.

A campaign through the Perth winter of 2003 was followed by a Newcastle Mile win that earned The Falcon Strike a berth in the 2003 Miracle Mile won by Sokyola.

Returning to Perth, The Falcon Strike reeled off four straight wins including a second WA Pacing Cup/Fremantle Cup double and an Australian Pacing Championship for good measure.

His form, combined with a home track advantage saw The Falcon Strike installed as pre-post favourite for the 2004 Perth Inter Dominion although some experts, including the Inter Dominion king Brian Hancock expressed doubts as to the horse’s ability to get through four runs in a fortnight.

Hall has stuck to his training methods throughout four decades and sees little reason to change.

“I train the way I want to train and whenever I have tried to change has been when I have got into trouble”, Hall said.

“I am conservative in how fast I work them and when they are racing there are some weeks when they don’t get fast-worked at all”.

Most trainers would regard a horse like The Falcon Strike as a once in a lifetime occurrence but in 2008 Hall struck gold a second time when he arranged the purchase for his stable of  the 3yo Im Themightyquinn after the gelding had finished third in the $200,000 Harness Jewels final.

It took some time for the high-speed son of Washington VC and his new trainer to gel and at each of his first eight starts in Perth Im Themightyquinn followed the normal Hall stable pattern and either raced in the lead or outside the leader’s wheel.

The first time Im Themightyquinn was driven with a sit was in the 2009 Fremantle Cup when, with Shayne Cramp at the reins, he finished third to Power Of Tara and Divisive.

“He always had high speed but he pulled very hard so he was worked a lot of long slow work until he eventually learned to relax”, Hall explained.

“When a horse with his speed can learn to relax they can do great things”.

Commencing with his 4yo season and after learning to relax more in his races, Im Themightyquinn proved almost unbeatable at Group One level and in 28 starts against the Southern Hemisphere’s best over six seasons of racing Im Themightyquinn at Group One level recorded a remarkable 15 wins, four seconds and seven thirds.

Hall is the first however to give a big chunk of the credit to his son for the success the pair have enjoyed over the past dozen seasons.

“Junior is a natural big-race driver and while I was a decent driver in my own right at Gloucester Park I wasn’t up to driving against the other top-shelf drivers” Hall said.

“To beat the likes of Gavin Lang, Chris Lewis, Tony Herlihy and Anthony Butt you need to be in the big races all the time and you also need a relaxed personality which Junior has in spades”.

While the self-deprecating Hall may be under-selling his ability at the reins, his record this century as a trainer is without peer in Australia as evidenced by 51 wins at Group One level including a record 11 WA Pacing Cups, three Inter Dominions, eight Fremantle Cups, five Australian Pacing Championships, two Auckland Cups, five WA Derbies, two Golden Nugget Championships, four FHRC 4yo Classics and a Blacks A Fake Championship at Albion Park.

Not surprisingly Gary Hall Snr was indicted into The West Australian Racing Industry Hall of Fame in 2014.

 

Alan Parker

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