Former Kiwi pacer Hokunui Ben has emerged as a bolter to claim the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit title after a thrilling victory in the Gr.1 $400,000 Nepean Conveyors WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park.
With a maximum 100 points on offer, victory was clearly going to elevate the chances of any runner being crowned Grand Circuit champion this season.
Connections of co-leaders Christen Me and For A Reason (160 points) decided to bypass the Perth feature as they get set for the upcoming Inter Dominion Pacing Championship in Sydney.
Most were tipping last week’s Fremantle Cup Im Victorious as the horse to beat despite a tricky draw on the inside of the second-line while many thought Bettors Fire could turn the tables on his conqueror from last week.
But it was the ideally drawn Hokunui Ben who defied all.
Sent straight to the lead by reinsman Clinton Hall, Hokunui Ben cruised through a lead time of 101.4 seconds while Toretto sent in the trail with Bettors Fire parking without cover.
Race favourite Im Victorious quickly maneuvered away from the inside and sat mid-field in the moving line.
The first quarter was recorded in a leisurely 31 .1 seconds.
Gary Hall Jnr aboard Im Victorious made his move three-wide and raced up looking for the position on the outside of the leader but Kyle Harper aboard Bettors Fire wasn’t about to give away his position outside of Hokunui Ben.
They roared through the second quarter in 28.4 seconds before Im Victorious was able to ease and land the position of one out/one back and with clear viewing of his main dangers.
The let-up for Im Victorious was only brief as the favourite was forced to make another move with the three wide line starting from back in the field with a lap remaining.
Im Victorious was working extremely hard.
Hokunui Ben continued to build on the pressure and paced the third quarter in 28.1 seconds while his rivals started to feel the pinch.
As Hokunui Ben raced off the back straight for the final time, Clinton Hall decided to wait no longer and skipped away on his rivals leaving his stablemate Toretto as the only legitimate threat.
With the winning post within his sights, the steps became shorter for Hokunui Ben as Toretto continued to take ground off him.
At the finish, Hokunui Ben lasted by the barest possible margin of a nose from Toretto while an unlucky This Time Dylan was five metres away in third.
Race favourite Im Victorious finished sixth while it was later established he carried a flat tyre for the duration of the event.
The final quarter was posted in 29.2 seconds.
The mile rate for the 2936m event was 1;59.6.
“That’s a great victory; I was disappointed with the horse last week in the Fremantle Cup so we changed his work around this week and really lightened off his workload.” Winning trainer Gary Hall Snr said.
“That was a terrific drive by Clint, he rated perfectly him perfectly and I’m proud to see him get his first Cup winner. This horse just keeps stepping up and we’ll now look at the Inter Dominion series with him.” Hall Snr added.
The victory provided winning trainer Gary Hall Snr with his 8th WA Pacing Cup trophy, the master horseman has now won eight of the last twelve editions of the famous race.
For winning driver Clinton Hall, it would prove to be his first Cup success, and his front running tactics would prove to be inch perfect.
Hokunui Ben is raced by Queensland based owner Jeroen Nieuwenburg.
Nieuwenburg has raced plenty of pacers with success from the Hall stables in Perth over several years now and is no stranger to success either after Dartmoor won the 2008 Australian Pacing Championship.
Oddly, both Nieuwenburg and Hall Snr have never actually come face to face.
by Chris Barsby