Elegant Christian is back on track

08:24 AM 02 Apr 2014 NZDT
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Elegant Christian & Clinton Hall.jpg
Connections of Elegant Christian and Clinton Hall
Reinsman Clint Hall declared that inexperienced gelding Elegant Christian was spot on for the WA Derby on Friday week and was supremely confident that he would wind up his preparation for the $200,000 classic by winning the $50,000 TABtouch Western Gateway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Elegant Christian stunned punters when he started at 25/1 on and was beaten in a minor event at Gloucester Park on Monday of last week.

However, Hall said that there was a significant excuse for that defeat (by a nose behind Mister Jadore) and that the lightly-raced three-year-old had bounced back to his brilliant best with a dazzling performance in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning when he romped to a 15-length victory after flying home over the final 800m in 55.5sec.

"He drew the outside of the front line in the trial and I kept him four and five wide on the first corner before easing him back to last," he said. "And then after we got through the first quarter I asked him to come out and he went up and took the breeze and he raced there for a lap until he went to the front at the bell.

"I sent him around the last two corners and he was fine, back to normal. We added a nearside lugging pole, a Murphy blind and an underhead check --- and he felt super.

"I made him run round the corner from the 800m to the 600m and made him run again from the 400m to the 200m. I then let him ease up going to the line and I was quite surprised when I saw he had run 26.9sec. for the last quarter."

Six days earlier Elegant Christian hung very badly in a 2130m event at Gloucester Park when he raced in the breeze outside Mister Jadore. He fought on gamely, but just failed to overhaul the pacemaker. Trainer Gary Hall sen. then discovered that the gelding was suffering from an ulcer in his mouth which caused him to hang inwards. This has been cured.

That was Elegant Christian's first defeat in a six-start career and now Clint Hall is bubbling with confidence that the gelding will be untroubled to set the pace from the prized No. 1 barrier on the front line in Friday night's group 3 event.

Elegant Christian is one of four runners from the powerful Hall stable, the others being Machtu, Eyre Crusher and Classic American. Kim Prentice will drive Machtu from barrier two on the back line, Morgan Woodley has been booked to handle Eyre Crusher (inside of the back line) and Chris Voak will drive Classic American from barrier four on the back line.

Clint Hall drove Machtu when he gave a superb performance to score a runaway victory in a 2536m Derby prelude last Friday night. But he had no hesitation in choosing to drive Elegant Christian this week. Machtu settled at the rear in last week's event before surging forward to the breeze in the middle stages and then charging away from his rivals to win by just under seven lengths from Three Blind Mice.

"It was a super run by Machtu and he is sure to be prominent in this week's race," Hall said. "Eyre Crusher will appreciate drawing the inside of the back line and should follow Elegant Christian. He should finish in the top three." Eyre Crusher has had nine starts for four wins and four seconds.

Classic American has won at six of his nine starts, but faces a stern test from barrier four on the back line. Mister Jadore, a winner of ten races, also faces a tough task from the outside of the back line.

Pelusiac, with a record of five wins and three seconds from ten starts, left Hall's stables last Sunday week and will be making his first appearance for Capel trainer Andrew De Campo. He will be handled by Aiden De Campo from barrier three on the back line.

Adding further interest to the race will be the Australian debut of Ultimate Major, who has entered de Campo's stables this year after winning at three of his four starts in New Zealand late last year. He will start from barrier four on the front line.

Three Blind Mice (barrier two) and Calais (three) are smart geldings who are racing keenly and should be prominent.

However, Elegant Christian appears likely to carry too many guns for his rivals and should give Hall sen. his third success in the Western Gateway Pace. He trained and drove The Falcon Strike when he beat Knightwatchman and Shadow Maker in 2001 and he prepared Alta Christiano for his success 12 months ago.

HALL SAYS SOHO VALENCIA IS "GOING PLACES"

"I think he's going places and is a Christmas horse, and a Christmas horse should take care of these," said Clint Hall when assessing the prospects of Soho Valencia in the 2130m Princi Butchers Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Hall will drive the five-year-old, who will start from barrier three on the back line and is likely to make a sweeping move in the first lap in a bid to burst to the front.

Soho Valencia is one of four runners in the race prepared by leading trainer Gary Hall sen., the others being last-start winner Dashing Christian (Kim Prentice), Benjamin Banneker (Kiara Davies) and Our Arlington (Lauren Jones). They are better-assessed pacers than Soho Valencia, who is an M1-class performer.

But Soho Valencia has greater ability and potential than that trio and he is certain to prove very hard to beat after second placings as favourite on the past two Friday nights. They were his first two runs after an injury-enforced absence of 17 months and they were full of merit.

He had a tough run when a fighting second to his classy stablemate Northview Punter last Friday week and then he raced without cover all the way when second to the brilliant mare Sensational Gabby last Friday night.

"He drops down a bit in class this week after last week's Free-For-All," said Clint Hall. "His run last week was super. Chris Lewis (Sensational Gabby) didn't make the mistake of letting Soho Valencia into the race after having the advantage of the barrier draw. This week Soho Valencia will be hard to beat."

The prospects of Lovers Delight, the impressive winner of the Clarke final last week when he worked hard in the breeze before getting up to defeat Lord Lombo, deteriorated when he drew the outside of the front line in the preferential barrier draw.

Dashing Christian has drawn ideally at No. 2 on the front line and is capable of a bold showing. He should be prominent throughout. He impressed last Friday night when he raced three back on the pegs before charging home to snatch a nose victory over Mighty Flying Thomas.

Adding interest to the race will be the return of smart eight-year-old Ohoka Samson for Pinjarra trainer-reinsman Kade Howson. Ohoka Samson has been off the scene for four months, but impressed when he sprinted over the final 400m in 27.6sec. to win a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning, rating 1.55.9. He will start from barrier four on the back line.

DROP-DOWN RULE SHOULD HELP MAGGIES MYSTERY

When smart five-year-old mare Maggies Mystery was an unlucky fourth behind Erris Lad last Friday night she increased her losing sequence to ten and immediately became the latest beneficiary of the drop-down rule, with her classification being altered from an M3 to an M2 mark.

This has enabled her to be handicapped off the front line in the discretionary M1 and better Bet Today Collect Today Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night, thus boosting her prospects.

Maggies Mystery, to be driven by Aldo Cortopassi for Burekup trainer Colin Reeves, was unlucky last week. She was in ninth position on the pegs at the bell and was finishing strongly, but was hampered for room when fourth, just over a length behind the winner.

She caught the eye four days earlier when a fast-finishing fourth behind Soho Jackman in a 1730m, sprint at Gloucester Park.

There is plenty of exposed form in Friday night's standing-start event over 2503m and punters should get great value for their investments, with polemarker Copagrin and last-start all-the-way winner Major Fury (barrier two) sure to be prominent. Hez Got The Nod, J Walker, Pembrook Henry, Balleybofey, Danieljohn and Erris Lad all have sound claims.

QUINNY GETS ALTA CHRISTIANO ON THE MOVE

Richly-talented New Zealand-bred four-year-old Alta Christiano was beaten in a track workout last Saturday morning. But it was an effort which enhanced his prospects of winning the first heat of the Making Smoking History Johnson Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Why? The answer is simple. He was beaten on the home track of Serpentine master trainer Gary Hall sen. by none other than superstar Im Themightyquinn.

Alta Christiano, driven by Clint Hall, set the pace in then workout before being beaten comfortably by Im Themightyquinn (Gary Hall jun.).

"We ran the mile and a half on the 1000m track in 3min. 3sec. and the last quarter took 27.1sec.," said Clint Hall. "It was Quinny's first real hit-out and his first workout with another horse in this preparation. He went to the line under a strong hold.

"Alta Christiano should be too good for his rivals on Friday night. His first-up run was very good. He was nice and relaxed and sharp at the end, and he wanted to run another quarter."

In that 2536m event at Gloucester Park last Monday week Alta Christiano made most of the running and won easily from Jungleface Jake after sprinting over the final 800m in 55.8sec. and the last 400m in 27sec. It was his first appearance after a ten-month absence.

Alta Christiano will start from the inside of the back line on Friday night and Hall is likely to attempt to get him off the pegs and to go forward as early as possible.

Im Themightyquinn will return to Gloucester Park on Friday week with an exhibition workout. He is expected to return to racing on the same track a fortnight later.

SCHOOLBOY LANDS FIRST CITY WINNER

Sixteen-year-old schoolboy Micheal Ferguson took time off from his studies to go to Gloucester Park with his parents Brian and Allison on Tuesday evening --- and he landed his first city winner by driving 5/2 chance Barkers Hall to an all-the-way victory over the even-money favourite Dashing Major in the 2536m Schweppes Pace.

A day earlier, he got permission to take the afternoon to attend the meeting at Pinjarra where he drove Adda Notherzero to a thrilling nose victory over Chooks Reward after bringing Guilty Grin from the rear to finish a nose second to Director Whitby

Ferguson now has driven four winners in his brief career after learning the ropes from his father, a Byford trainer-reinsman who has been concentrating on breaking in young pacers in recent years. Young Ferguson also has been assisting at the Serpentine stables of leading trainer Gary Hall sen. during school holidays and on weekends.

Barkers Hall, a Victorian-bred five-year-old, is trained by Hall and his win on Tuesday night was his first in 12 starts in Western Australia. Ferguson jumped Barkers Hall straight to the front from the No. 2 barrier and he stole a march on his rivals when he was able to get the gelding to amble through the first two 400m sections of the final milem in 32.7sec. and 30.7sec. before increasing the tempo with two final quarters in 28.4sec.

by Ken Casellas

 

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