Hall sets Soho Valencia a big challenge

03:05 PM 26 Mar 2014 NZDT
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Soho Valencia
Gary Hall sen. has a massive opinion of five-year-old Soho Valencia

Champion trainer Gary Hall sen. has a massive opinion of five-year-old Soho Valencia and he has decided to throw the stallion in at the deep end by starting him in open-class company in the 2130m Ray Duffy Memorial at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Hall has thrown down the gauntlet by opting to start the stallion, at his second appearance after an injury-enforced absence of 17 months, against seasoned campaigners, including WA Pacing Cup winner Hokonui Ben and brilliant mare Sensational Gabby.

The Duffy Memorial is a $21,000 event for pacers handicapped M5 or better. Soho Valencia is on an M1 mark and Hall had the option of starting him against weaker opposition in the $17,500 PLSScrapbooking.com.au Pace.

But Hall is confident that Soho Valencia has the class to defeat his rivals in the Duffy Memorial, saying: "I'd like to see him lead in a Free-For-All over 2130m and see how good they are. I know how good he is."

Whether Soho Valencia, to be driven by Clint Hall, is capable of leading in Friday night's race is a moot point. He will start from barrier two on the front line, with the five-year-old Sensational Gabby on his inside.

Sensational Gabby possesses sparkling gate speed and Chris Lewis is certain to attempt to jump in front and set a merry pace. Soho Valencia had his first start since October 2012 when he contested the Four And Five-Year-Old Championship last Friday night. He started from barrier four on the back line, was sent forward, three wide, after 600m and then raced on the outside of the pacemaker Red Salute before getting to the front 250m from home and finishing second to Northview Punter.

Soho Valencia finished more than two lengths in front of Sensational Gabby, who started from the outside of the front line and impressed in sustaining a spirited three-wide burst (with cover) from tenth at the bell to be sixth.

Looming large as the horse to beat for both Soho Valencia and Sensational Gabby is Hokonui Ben, the all-the-way winner of the $400,000 WA Pacing Cup over 2936m on January 17. He finished with a powerful burst from eighth at the bell to win from Northview Punter and David Hercules two starts ago and then covered a lot of extra ground when fourth behind Red salute and Sensational Gabby last Friday week.

Hokonui Ben will start from the outside of the front line for trainer-reinsman Aldo Cortopassi , but the seven-year-old with an M11 classification has the class to overcome this disadvantage.

Hall, who has trained 122 winners this season, prepares five of the eight runners in the Duffy Memorial. His other four starters are Famous Alchemist, Whos Mistake, Passion Stride and Code Red.

MACHTU LOOKS THE GOODS IN DERBY PRELUDE

New Zealand-bred gelding Machtu looks set to return to the winning list by proving too fast and too strong for his nine rivals in the 2536m Cowden Ltd WA Derby Prelude at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

He will start from barrier four on the front line for trainer Gary Hall sen. and reinsman Clint Hall, who will replace his younger brother Gary, who has driven the gelding at his four starts in Western Australia for three runs and a last-start second to stablemate Elegant Christian over 2536m at Gloucester Park last Friday week. Gary Hall jun. is serving a 30-day suspension.

Machtu was far from disgraced at his most recent appearance when he raced wide and then worked hard outside the pacemaking Elegant Christian. Machtu refused to give in and was beaten by less than a length after dashing over the final 800m in 55.3sec.

His most serious rival on Friday night is likely to be his stablemate Classic American, who will start from the outside of the back line with Kim Prentice in the sulky.

Classic American, a seven-length winner at his only appearance in New Zealand, over 2200m at Cambridge last June, made his Australian debut at Gloucester Park early last December when he raced in the breeze and finished second to Calais. He then chalked up wins at his next five starts before his defeat at Bunbury last Saturday night. He went to Byford on Sunday morning where he rated 1.58.6 in winning a 2150m trial after trailing the pacemaker Keeper of Keys. The final 400m took 28.1sec.

Pinjarra trainer Kade Howson has three New Zealand-bred runners in Friday night's event --- polemarker So Ubettabelieveit, Live Life Fast (barrier six) and Ohoka Cooper (barrier three on the back line) and Forrestdale trainers Greg and Skye Bond will be represented by Black Mr Mach (barrier three) and Zacharia (barrier seven).

The Hall camp will take the highly-promising Elegant Christian to the Byford trials on Sunday morning after the gelding suffered a shock defeat at 25/1 on in a 2130m event at Gloucester Park on Monday afternoon.

Elegant Christian, who went into the race with a perfect record of five wins from five starts, started from the No. 3 barrier on the front line and jumped a length clear of polemarker Mister Jadore. But he was unable to cross to the pegs and then proved a handful for Clint Hall as he hung in badly when racing in the breeze. He finished determinedly to be a half-head second to Mister Jadore.

The stewards then ordered the gelding back to trials. Trainer Gary Hall sen. said that Elegant Christian was affected by an ulcer in his mouth which caused him to hang. "We'll clear that up and then he should be okay," he said.

Another WA Derby prospect Pelusiac left Hall's Serpentine training establishment last Sunday morning and has entered the Capel stables of Andrew De Campo. Pelusiac had ten starts for Hall for five wins and three seconds.

He was a 5/2 on favourite in a Derby prelude at Gloucester Park last Friday night when he worked in the first 500m before taking the lead. He set the pace before wilting to fifth behind stablemate Eyre Crusher.

PACIFIC WARRIOR WILL NEED LUCK FROM TRICKY DRAW

Rising star Pacific Warrior, the fastest of the three heat winners,has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the back line and will need luck when he contests the $25,000 final of the Litter Scrapbooking Clarke Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Pacific Warrior, trained at Mt Helena by Ray Williams, has won in dashing style at his past three starts and would have been a warm favourite if he had drawn a favourable barrier on the front line. The race now appears a far more open affair.

Reinsman Kade Howson is likely to determine his tactics as the race unfolds. There is reasonable doubt whether the polemarker Benjamin Banneker possesses the necessary gate speed to hold up. If Benjamin Banneker, who has shown gate speed in a couple of his starts, does set the pace and Howson decides to trail him there will be the distinct possibility of Pacific Warrior being denied a clear passage in the final circuit.

Benjamin Banneker, trained by Gary Hall sen., has not led all the way in any of his 30 starts which have produced ten wins and eight placings. Most of Benjamin Banneker's victories have come when he has unwound a spirited finishing burst. He has drawn the No. 1 barrier only once before. That was at Gloucester Park last May when he started at 5/2 on and galloped at the start before racing three wide for much of the 2130m journey and finishing gamely to snatch victory by a head.

Pacific Warrior relished the task of racing without cover before winning narrowly from the pacemaker Lovers Delight in the third qualifying heat of the Clarke Pace. He rated 1.56 which was significantly better than the rates recorded by the other heat winners, Franco Torres (1.56.7) and Hokuri Handrail (1.58.5).

Hokuri Handrail rated 1.56 when he flooded home from eighth on the pegs at the bell to win from Little Boy Blue and Korobeit Angel over 1730m last Friday night. He is a speedy beginner and noted frontrunner who will start from barrier three on the front line and could be seen in the role of pacemaker in Friday night's race.

Lord Lombo is a versatile in-form pacer who has good gate speed and is a smart frontrunner. Chris Voak could well attempt to burst to an early lead from the favourable No. 2 barrier. Lord Lombo rattled home from eighth at the bell when second to Hokuri Handrail last Friday week and he was a fast-finishing winner over Uppy Son at his previous start.

Lovers Delight and Our Arlington are in fine form and each is capable of winning without surprising. Back-line runners Braemoor and Rocky Marciano can produce strong finishing bursts, but they will need plenty of luck from wide draws.

BONDS HOLD STRONG HAND IN MARES EVENT

Forrestdale trainers Greg and Skye Bond hold a strong hand with four-year-olds Am Opulent and Jungle Genie in the 2130m Gannon's Mares Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Am Opulent returned to form and broke a losing sequence of ten when she made full use of the coveted No. 1 barrier by leading and winning by three lengths from Adda Rising Star over 2150m at Harvey last Saturday week. Jungle genie started from the outside of the front line and fought on gamely from sixth at the bell to be third.

Am Opulent fared the best in the random draw and again will start from the No. 1 barrier. She should lead and prove hard to catch. Jungle Genie, a winner at 11 of her past 22 starts, cannot be dismissed, even from out wide at No. 6 on the front line.

Adda Rising Star followed her Harvey second to Am Opulent with a solid win at Bunbury last Saturday night when she raced without cover before beating Lucky Drew by a length. She should be prominent from barrier two.

The Debbie Padberg-trained Lavra Florence impressed at Gloucester Park on Monday afternoon when she trailed the pacemaker Showstopper before finishing powerfully to win from that mare and Cieleto at a 1.58.1 rate over 2130m. The New Zealand-bred former Victorian performer will start from barrier five on the front line and looks sure to win many more races.

MAJORLY FOXY STYYX TO MISS OAKS

Outstanding filly Majorly Foxy Styx has broken down and will miss the $150,000 WA Oaks at Gloucester Park on May 9.

"She has bowed a tendon in the nearside foreleg," said trainer Gary Hall sen.

Majorly Foxy Styx looked a near certainty in the Oaks after winning in convincing style at her past seven starts. At her most recent outing she romped to victory by six lengths over The Parade in the group 2 Dainty's Daughter Classic at Gloucester Park. That took her record to 15 starts for seven wins and three placings for stakes of $90,530.

Meanwhile, star four-year-old Alta Christiano reappeared after an injury-enforced absence of ten months at Gloucester Park on Monday afternoon when he scored an effortless all-the-way victory in a modest C3-class event over 2536m.

Driven by Clint Hall, Alta Christiano, produced in big and burly condition by leading trainer Gary Hall sen., took the lead 250m after the start and after ambling through the first two quarters of the final mile in 32.6sec. and 31.7sec., he sprinted over the next two sections in 28.8sec. and 27sec. to beat Jungleface Jake by two and a half lengths at a 2.1.4 rate.

Alta Christiano is unbeaten at his first four Australian starts after four wins from eight starts in New Zealand. The easy winner of the WA Derby last April will have his next start at Gloucester Park on Friday week.

De CAMPO COMEBACK AT WAGIN

Outstanding Capel trainer Andrew De Campo is planning a surprise comeback to race driving. The 47-year-old horseman has nominated himself to drive stablemates Vibrate and Trojan Bromac at the meeting at Wagin on Friday night.

He has not driven in a race since 33/1 chance Zenthura raced in the breeze and wilted to seventh behind Paddy Whacked over 1750m at Kalgoorlie on November 13, 2011. His most recent winner was Nowuseeme, who started at 5/1 on and made most of the running to score easily from Mabel Rose over 2100m at Bunbury on June 26, 2009.

Vibrate has a losing sequence of 12, stretching back to January 2012. The seven-year-old will start from barrier five in the 2180m Fleay Grocery Store Darkan Pace. Trojan Bromac, a winner of 18 races, will start from the outside in a field of six in the 2180m Darkan Cup, in which the main fancies are expected to be Major Catastrophe (David Young) and Im Riddick (Aaron Beckett).

by Ken Casellas

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