Prentice likes Machtu's Derby chances

10:57 AM 09 Apr 2014 NZST
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Kim Prentice & connections
Kim Prentice - rates the chances of Machtu

Outstanding horseman Kim Prentice has gone close to winning the WA Derby a couple of times and now he feels that the time is right for him to put the record straight by winning the $200,000 Sky Racing WA Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

He will drive the New Zealand-bred three-year-old Machtu for leading trainer Gary Hall sen. and both men believe the gelding has the ability, the form and the barrier draw to win the 2536m classic.

Prentice drove Machtu for the first time in a race last Friday night when he covered a good deal of ground, starting a three-wide run from eighth with 1200m to travel in the 2130m Western Gateway Pace in which stablemate Elegant Christian set the pace from the No. 1 barrier and won at a 1.56.1 rate from two other Hall runners Classic American and Eyre Crusher.

Machtu, who moved to third, out three wide, at the bell, battled on gamely to finish fifth, just one and a half lengths behind the winner.

Prentice went close to winning the Derby when he drove the filly Dilingers Reign into third place behind Mr Yankee and Devastating in 2006. In the previous year's Derby Prentice trained Alberta Retreat, who was driven by Chris Lewis and turned for home in front before finishing a close second to Richard Henry.

"Machtu will definitely be a big player on Friday night," Prentice said. "I'm happy with the draw at barrier three on the back line and I've just spoken to Senior and he thinks that Machtu might be the pick of the stable runners, from that draw.

"Machtu gave me a good feel last week and I'm happy to be sitting behind him in the Derby. I had driven him only once before, on the track, and I think the 2500m will be right up his alley. All he needs is a nice run into the race and then we'll go from there. Definitely he can fight out the finish and hopefully, if things go our way, it will be my first Derby."

Hall said he considered Machtu to be a "good chance," pointing out that the gelding faced the breeze before winning a 2536m Derby prelude by 20 metres last Friday week.

"Over 2130m last week it was too much rush and tear for him, and he was up there pulling at the bell," he said. "And it was too much to ask of him with Elegant Christian running those sectionals. I think he will be a big improver."

Hall, who prepared his first Derby winner 12 months ago when his son Gary drove Alta Christiano to a runaway victory over Victorian pacer Macha after racing without cover for much of the journey, has four runners in Friday night's classic, Machtu, Elegant Christian (barrier No. 4 on the front line), Eyre Crusher (inside of the back line) and Classic American (barrier four on the back line).

"The draw hasn't done our runners any favours," he said. "I think the draw has made it a very interesting race. It has brought Three Blind Mice into contention after drawing barrier one. And it probably has taken a couple out, like Bettor Offer and Mister Jadore. I think they will find it a lot harder from back-line draws.

"Before the draw I thought those two horses would be the main dangers to our stable runners. If either had been drawn to lead I would have been really worried about them. I certainly think that Elegant Christian can win.

"I think he was out of his comfort zone last week, being pushed out to lead by Ultimate Major and Bettor Offer. This led to a fast lead time of 35.6sec. and I think those two horses paid the penalty, with both of them finishing well back.

"So taking a line through that I think that Elegant Christian's run was pretty good. This week I think he will be better off just coming out at his leisure and just getting across to the breeze or to the front. It's a Derby and horses drawn favourably generally do go forward in a bid to lead. I think Three Blind Mice has shown enough ability, and he can stay a bit, to maybe want to lead. And Bettor Rules (No. 3) generally likes to get to the front. If Elegant Christian gets to the breeze outside Three Blind Mice I think he would win."

Clint Hall will again drive Elegant Christian and he declared that the gelding was the horse to beat. "I'm not going to put all my eggs in one basket, so I won't be going flat out for the lead," he said. "I would like to lead and if the lead is there for the taking I'll certainly take it. However, I believe that I can sit outside any of the three horses drawn on my inside and win the race."

Pelusiac, trained by Andrew De Campo, is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier and reinsman Aiden De Campo said that he was very happy with the draw. Pelusiac, a winner at five of his 11 starts, was unlucky in last week's Western Gateway Pace when he was distanced.

"He was travelling pretty well, three wide and three back and was definitely getting into the race in the back straight in the final lap when he was knocked over by his stablemate, who was going roughly," de Campo said. "From barrier two he won't have to do too much early and we should get into a nice position.

"He worked well this morning (Tuesday) and hopefully he will get a nice sit on the speed and get a bit of luck over the final 500m. And then, hopefully, he'll finish over the top of them."

Hall sen. said that if Three Blind Mice set the pace it would bring Eyre Crusher (Morgan Woodley) into the race with a chance. "Morgan said that Eyre Crusher probably should have won last week's race by three or four lengths if he had got out in the home straight. He said he was bolting."

Eyre Crusher finished third, just behind Classic American, who flew home from last at the bell. "It was exciting to see Classic American come back to form," Hall sen. said. "Obviously we have been driving him wrong. Soft driving helped him a lot."

Henley Brook trainer-reinsman Robbie Williams will not push out with Calais from the No. 5 barrier and is hoping to obtain a favourable sit before asking the promising gelding to produce a strong finishing sprint.

"It's no use worrying about the barrier," Williams said. "I will drive him softly and hope to be able to use his speed late in the race. He can run a fast 400m."

Boyanup trainer-reinsman Justin Prentice had no luck at the draw, with Mista Rush drawing barrier six on the front line and Tasmanian Bromac No. 7. Both geldings will need plenty of luck to figure in the finish.

The lightly-raced Mista Rush has impressed in winning the South-West Derby at Pinjarra and the Country Derby at Bunbury at his past two starts.

SENSATIONAL GABBY SET TO MAKE THE SPARKS FLY

The clash between noted frontrunners Hokonui Ben and Sensational Gabby in the 2130m Big Sports Breakfast TV Channel 519 Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night looks set to produce plenty of fireworks and should be a major highlight on the nine-event program.

Hokonui Ben, the all-the-way winner of the 2936m WA Pacing Cup in January, gained a significant early advantage by drawing barrier two in the seven-horse field and trainer-reinsman Aldo Cortopassi is sure to attempt to burst past the polemarker Rocket Reign in the early stages.

However, Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri hopes that Sensational Gabby's sizzling early speed from barrier four will enable her to outpace the three runners drawn inside of her and assume her favoured role of pacemaker.

"She has very good gate speed and obviously Plan A will be to lead," Olivieri said. "If Chris (Lewis) feels that there is something happening inside of him that he doesn't like, then he will go to plan B. She has been working really well since she led and won easily from Soho Valencia two Fridays ago." In that event Sensational Gabby rated 1.54.8 over 2130m.

Olivieri also has an excellent second string in Red Salute, who will start from the No. 5 barrier and will again be handled by Chris Voak.

"Red Salute is a consistent performer, but he has been suffering from a sore foot," Olivieri said as he offered that problem as a legitimate excuse for the five-year-old fading to fifth behind Northview Punter and Soho Valencia after setting the pace at his latest appearance, over 2130m three Fridays ago.

"Chris said that Red Salute was going like a camel down the back. The horse then blew an abscess out in a foot at his next track run, and that was obviously bothering him in the race when his effort, on the surface, was disappointing compared to his previous run (when he led and won from Sensational Gabby over 2130m).

Adding considerable interest to Friday night's race will be the reappearance of star pacer Dasher VC, who will start from the outside in the field of seven.

The seven-year-old and winner of the 2013 Fremantle Cup when he defeated Im Themightyquinn will be having his first start since finishing tenth in the WA Pacing Cup on January 17. His driver Aiden De Campo (son of Capel trainer Andrew De Campo) said that Dasher VC had been working strongly.

"He worked with a galloping pacemaker on our track this morning (Tuesday) and worked really well," he said. "He'll probably need the run on Friday, but hopefully he's coming back to his best.

"During his previous preparation we were trying to patch up a lot of holes with him, trying to be nice to him and getting him sound. This time it will be either make or break for him."

Also resuming after a spell will be Rocket Reign, who should enjoy an ideal passage from the No. 1 barrier. Wanneroo trainer Debbie Padberg said that the ten-year-old was working really well, was sound and is looking a million dollars.

GOOD DRIVE FOR LEWIS

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis has been engaged to drive promising lightly-raced four-year-old Leftrightgoodnight in the Sky Racing Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and he should send punters home on a winning note.

Leftrightgoodnight, trained at Baskerville by Sonia Zucchiatti, impressed at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon when he overcame the disadvantage of a punctured sulky tyre to finish strongly from eighth at the bell to win easily from Deimos at a 1.56 rate over 1684m.

He was driven by Kim Prentice, who will handle Zucchiatti's other runner Sir Kale in Friday night's race. Sir Kale, who will start from barrier four on the front line, has a losing sequence of 23 stretching back to a win in Bunbury in June 2011. He has been placed at three of his past seven starts.

Prentice has driven Leftrightgoodnight at seven of his eight starts for three wins and one placing. Lewis has driven the gelding only once --- for an easy all-the-way victory over 2130m at Gloucester Park in mid-February. Leftrightgoodnight will start from barrier two on the front line and Lewis will be keen to get the gelding to an early lead.

COMPACT ROCKET FAVOURED TO TURN THE TABLES

Handy five-year-old Compact Rocket gets an ideal opportunity to turn the tables on his stablemate Pembrook Henry when he starts from barrier three on the front line of the 2503m Big Sports Breakfast TV Channel 519 Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Last Friday night Compact Rocket sat behind the pacemaking Pembrook Henry and was hampered for room in the closing stages when a sound third to that pacer in a 2503m stand. Pembrook Henry faces a tougher task this week off the 10m mark.

Trainer Ross Olivieri said that he was confident of a bold showing this week from Compact Rocket, whose barrier manners were improving.

"He was a bit hit and miss in stands, but we think that we've got him (to get away smoothly)," Olivieri said. "He went from a pole to a line pole to nothing and since we've got rid of the pole he seems a lot better."

Olivieri also warned punters not to discount the winning chances of the nine-year-old Pembrook Henry, who led and won from Copagrin last week. "Starting from 10m won't be as good for him," he said. "However, I do believe that Pembrook Henry is a better horse from behind than in front, and he is beginning quickly, so he could be handily placed."

MATTHEW LANDS FIRST CITY WINNER

Twenty-two-year-old Harley Matthew gave a polished exhibition in the sulky to bring Loving You with a spirited burst from last to win the Young Drivers Pace at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night.

Loving You, trained at Herron by Clive Dalton, started at 7/1. The four-year-old mare started from the outside of the front line and Matthew wisely restrained her back to last in the field of ten before starting a three-wide burst approaching the bell.

Scuba Steve got past the pacemaker Visigoth 450m from home before being overhauled at the 250m mark by Loving You, who won by a half-length from the fast-finishing Blue McCool.

by Ken Casellas

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