Day At The Track

Halls poised for fifth Stratton Cup

04:51 PM 03 Oct 2019 NZDT
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King Of Swing,Harness racing
Scott Hamilton Photo

Enigmatic five-year-old King of Swing has won only once from his past 14 starts, but he looks the winner of the $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier.

The wonderful combination of Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr and his son, Hall of Fame reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, have won the Stratton Cup with Bengeeman (2002), Alzona (2011), Waylade (2015) and Chicago Bull (2018) and King of Swing has the class to add to their successes in this Group 2 feature event.

“Leading has been his forte,” said Hall Snr. “He’s quick out and should be able to lead and take beating. He raced in the breeze in the 2536m Media Guild Cup last week and didn’t throw in the towel when third behind Waylade and The Bucket List.”

King of Swing also worked hard without cover when he won the WA Derby by a head from Bechers Brook in April 2018, but most of his 18 wins from 44 starts have been when he has set the pace.

His most recent success was seven starts ago when he led from barrier two and ran a smart lead time of 36.4sec. His previous successes were when he led and beat Saying Grace by eight lengths at a 1.56.3 rate over 2536m, with a final quarter of 26.8sec., and when he rated 1.54.5 in an easy win over 2130m.

“In his third most recent win he held out a strong early challenge from Thereugo and ran a lead time of 34.7sec.,” Hall said. “So, he should be able to lead this week and I believe he will go close.”

The Hall stable also will be represented in this week’s Stratton Cup by Speed Man (Stuart McDonald) and Mad Robber (Maddison Brown). Speed Man is handily drawn at barrier two on the back line and is capable of figuring in the finish, but nine-year-old Mad Robber faces a stern task from barrier six and will be at liberal odds.

Hall of Fame reinsman Chris Lewis is seeking his eighth win in a Stratton Cup, after victories with Black Irish (1983), Village Kid (1985, 1988 and 1991), Ohoka Ace (2005), Sneakyn Down Under (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2014). He will handle five-year-old Our Corelli, who is prepared by his wife Debra and will start from the No. 4 barrier.

Our Corelli possesses excellent gate speed and is also versatile and capable of unwinding a spirited finishing burst. He surged home from sixth at the bell to gain a last-stride victory over El Jacko in the 2130m Navy Cup last Friday week. That was his eighth win from his past 12 starts.

The Ross Olivieri-trained Motu Premier will start from barrier No. 5 with Chris Voak in the sulky. Olivieri, who has won the Stratton Cup with Just Packapunch (1993) and Sensational Gabby, said that the New Zealand-bred Motu Premier was ready for a strong showing at his third start after a 12-month absence.

“Motu Premier has finished fifth at each of his two runs in this preparation and he’s come through those runs really well,” Olivieri said. “They have been very soft runs and he should be getting somewhere near his best form.”

Ten-year-old The Bucket List is racing with youthful enthusiasm and his trainer Michael Brennan is hoping that the race will be run at a strong tempo. The Bucket List, who will be handled by Michael Grantham, impressed in last week’s Media Guild Cup when he raced in sixth position and was eighth and last at the 400m mark before switching five wide on the home turn and flying home to finish second to the pacemaker Waylade.

“He probably had no right at all to run second,” said an admiring Brennan. “The key to his prospects will be if there are some strong challenges for the lead and the pace is on. We’re relying heavily on tempo in this race. At the top end there’s going to be some quality horses who can run serious sectionals.

“If the race is run up-tempo, The Bucket List can definitely win. You saw last week that he’s got an electrifying turn of foot, and he’s very strong as well. But, unfortunately, he’s a one-trick pony and you’ve got to drive him that way (as a sit-sprinter). I think he now races just as well as he did as a younger horse.”

The Bucket List raced in the breeze for much of the way when a fading fifth behind Chicago Bull in last year’s Stratton Cup. He sat behind the pacemaker Libertybelle Midfrew when second to that mare in the 2016 Stratton Cup. Brennan has fond memories of the 2013 Stratton Cup when he prepared star pacer Im Victorious for his three-length victory over Ima Rocket Star.

Ima Rocket Star was trained by Greg and Skye Bond, who will be represented in this week’s Cup by El Jacko and Our Jimmy Johnstone.

El Jacko is a brilliant pacer who has won 21 times from 59 starts and has been placed at each of his past three starts. He will start out wide at barrier eight with Ryan Warwick in the sulky. He is capable of producing a powerful finish and fully testing King of Swing.

Simba Bromac (barrier two) and Waylade (three) are racing keenly and should be prominent. Simba Bromac trailed the pacemaker Waylade and was hopelessly blocked for a run when an unlucky fourth to that pacer last week.

Kyle Harper, who drives Waylade for trainer Caris Hamilton-Smith, said that the nine-year-old faced a tougher task this week from the No. 3 barrier than he did when he led from barrier one in last week’s Media Guild Cup.  


Ken Casellas

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