Im Victorious is even better this week says Brennan

10:44 AM 15 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Im Victorious
Im Victorious - is better than last week
Photo: Bill Crab

Pinjarra trainer Michael Brennan declared that star five-year-old Im Victorious would strip fitter and stronger for the $400,000 Nepean Conveyors WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night than he was when he scored a brilliant victory in the Fremantle Cup last Friday night.

"He has improved since that run and has tightened right up," he said. "You've got to remember that was his first run for three weeks and he has got through the weekend heatwave in great shape and he felt super in his work yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday).

"I couldn't be happier with the horse and the way he's going. The 2936m is going to be right up his alley. He'll have plenty of time to find his feet and then it will be up to Junior (Gary Hall jun.)."

Brennan and Hall are bubbling with confidence that Im Victorious will be able to overcome the tricky draw on the inside of the back line and become just the eighth pacer to complete the Fremantle Cup-WA Pacing Cup double in the one season and the first horse to win the WA Derby, Golden Nugget, Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup.

Horses to have won the Cups double in the one season are Black Bertha (1942), Pure Steel (1980), Village Kid (1988 and 1989), The Falcon Strike (2002 and 2004), Baltic Eagle (2003) and Im Themightyquinn (2011 and 2012).

The 31-year-old Hall, the second most successful reinsman in the 101-year history of the WA Pacing Cup with six winners (behind Phil Coulson with seven), is far from fazed about Im Victorious starting from the inside of the back line and the possibility of becoming hemmed in and unable to obtain a clear run. He aims to get Im Victorious off the inside and into the clear as soon as possible.

"A lot of these races are won by horses who race on the leader's back, three back on the fence or even further back on the pegs," he said. "But when you've got a horse like Im Victorious and consider the artillery he carries, the fence is the last place you want to be.

"So I plan to get off as soon as we can. You have just got to make sure you survive the early hustle and bustle in the race and then I'll just play things by ear. You've just got to weigh up the option and when things change out there your options change. With Im Victorious we're not screwed down to any set tactics. He's very versatile and we'll let the race tell us when to make our move."

Hall used bold tactics last week when he charged forward from the rear with Im Victorious 650m after the start and raced the gelding in the breeze outside the pacemaker and favourite Bettors Fire before getting the upper hand on the home turn and beating Bettors Fire by a comfortable 2-metre margin.

This week Hall may have to employ different tactics, mainly because young trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper said that he expected to race in the breeze with the five-year-old.

Bettors Fire led from the No. 1 barrier in the Fremantle Cup, but he unlikely to have the gate speed to be able to burst to the front from the No. 4 barrier.

The general consensus among the Cup trainers and drivers is that Hokonui Ben, trained by Gary Hall sen., will set the pace after starting from barrier two, on the outside of his younger and less experienced stablemate Toretto.

Hall sen. reinforced this general opinion by saying: "Toretto is at his best when leading, but I think that his best chance will be if he takes a sit behind Hokonui Ben. I think that Toretto is about a year away from being up to this class. And from second on the fence Toretto is still going to have a great chance.

"The problem I've got when I've got multiple runners is that I don't want to look to be involved in team driving. I know that the stewards are always aware of that, but I wouldn't team drive purposely. I send horses out there to try to make sure that they all finish in the best possible position. And I think Toretto's best chance is to be sitting on Hokonui Ben.

"I expect Hokonui ben to lead. He is quite talented in front. Obviously, the best two horses in the race are Im Victorious and David Hercules."

Hall jun. said that he was not concerned at starting from the inside of the back line as he recalled the first public barrier draw he attended, for the 2002 WA Pacing Cup, a week after he had driven The Falcon Strike to victory in the Fremantle Cup.

"Mike van Rens, major owner of The Falcon Strike, told me that I would be picking the barrier," he said. "I walked up to the stage and pulled out barrier nine, the outside of the front line in those days, and I spent the rest of the night and the rest of the week really depressed and thinking that I had ruled myself out of the race.

"The Falcon Strike came out and won the race and I decided I would not put too much focus on future barrier draws and let what happens happen and just believe in your horse and your ability as a driver."

Brennan, in his second season as a trainer after serving an apprenticeship with Hall sen., said that he had high hopes that his other Cup runner This Time Dylan, who flashed home with a sparkling late burst to finish sixth in the Fremantle Cup, could be placed in this week's big group 1 feature.

"His finishing burst was sensational and he's done a massive job in the past eight weeks," he said. "I was just fortunate that Brian Ridley claimed him three Fridays ago and he came to me in such good order from the Hall stable."

Harper advised punters that Bettors Fire was capable of a bold effort, saying: "I think he's right up there with the top of the bunch and he'll definitely be there fighting out the finish. He was a touch underdone and not 100 per cent last week and he has improved after that run. However, there are no excuses for his defeat. He was beaten by a better horse on the night and probably a better horse generally at this stage.

"I think that Hokonui Ben will find the front and if we find the breeze, as I expect, I'll be aiming to stay there. If anything tries to get past us, they'll be three deep for a pretty long time."

Harper said it was a surreal feeling to have his first starter in a WA Pacing Cup and he recalled fondly one of his first memories of the big race --- back in 2001 when his father Lindsay prepared and drove Havago to victory.

"I remember going down to the beach and watching Havago work," he said. "It has always been an ambition to work a horse on the beach for a Pacing Cup, and here I am all this week doing just that, and it's amazing."

Ace reinsman Morgan Woodley, who drove outsider Mysta Magical Mach to victory in the 2009 WA Pacing Cup, was naturally disappointed when the David Thompson-trained David Hercules drew poorly at barrier four on the back line. But he has certainly not given up hope and he declared that the speedy seven-year-old could not be in any better shape than he is at the moment.

Woodley said that the 2936m posed no problems for the gelding. He said that he was going into the race with no set plans and would decide on his tactics as the race unfolded.

Eight-year-old Ima Rocket Star has drawn favourably at barrier three on the front line and co-trainer Greg Bond said that the gelding would relish the 2936m journey.

"Staying is his forte," he said. "He is fit and well and he'll probably work forward at the start and get into the running line. If Bettors Fire gets to the breeze, we could get the ideal trail behind him."

Tern-year-old iron horse Washakie, winner of the 2010 WA Pacing Cup (when he defeated Im Themightyquinn), is a resolute stayer, but his prospects faded when he drew the outside of the front line.

Capel trainer Andrew De Campo has two runners --- Dasher VC and Lombo Navigator --- and they are outsiders after drawing poorly. Dasher VC, winner of the 2013 Fremantle Cup, will start from the outside of the back line after breaking into a bad gallop soon after the start of the Fremantle Cup last week. Lombo Navigator, who will be having his first start since finishing last in a sprint vat Gloucester Park on September 20, will start out wide at No. 6 on the front line.

Bookmaker Steve Mulhall has Dasher VC at 33/1 and Lombo Navigator at 50/1, with Im Victorious favourite at even money.

The market: evens Im Victorious, 5/1 Hokonui Ben, 7/1 Bettors Fire, 9/1 David Hercules, 20/1 Washakie, Ima Rocket Star, This Time Dylan, 25/1 Hez the Bart Man, 33/1 Toretto, Dasher VC, 50/1 Lombo Navigator, Livingontheinterest.

HALL FANCIES FAMOUS ALCHEMIST OVER THE LONG JOURNEY

New Zealand-bred mare Famous Alchemist has never won a race beyond 2200m, but reinsman Gary Hall jun. is confident she will lead all the way in the Nepean Conveyors WA Pacing Cup Consolation over the marathon journey of 2936m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

"She's pretty tough and I don't think the long trip will worry her," he said. Hall's optimism bubbled to the fore after the five-year-old drew the prized No. 1 barrier.

"She will hold up early and is a great leader," Hall said. "There is nothing in the race who could sit outside her and then hold off the late challengers."

Hall has good reason to be confident. Famous Alchemist has started 18 times in Western Australia and has not been beaten in the five events in which she has set the pace. She is undefeated in the three starts in which she has begun from the No. 1 barrier in WA.

Famous Alchemist, trained by Gary Hall sen., was an all-the-way winner over 2130m two starts ago, when she defeated Maggies Mystery, before she contested the consolation of the Fremantle Cup over 2536m last Friday night. She started from barrier three and raced three back on the pegs before getting clear in the final stages and flying home to be third behind Hez The Bart Man and Danieljohn.

The major danger to Famous Alchemist looms as the Justin Prentice-trained Gday Mate, who will start from the inside of the back line and looks set to enjoy a perfect sit behind the likely pacemaker.

Gday Mate bounced back to top form last Friday night when he started from barrier five on the front line and raced in ninth position before charging home to win at a 1.57.2 rate over 2536m from J Walker and Hokurin Handrail.

The Hall camp hopes to complete a successful night by winning the final event, the Nepean Conveyors Three-Year-Old Fillies Pace with the highly-promising Majorly Foxy Styx, who has won at each of her past four starts, including her first three outings this season.

"She has drawn out wide at barrier six, but she should have the measure of her seven rivals," Hall jun. said. "She is a big filly with plenty of ability."

WILLIAMS EXPECTS OHOKA Kentucky TO FLOURISH IN FRONT

Promising New Zealand-bred five-year-old Ohoka Kentucky produced a sparkling burst of speed to cruise to an effortless victory at Gloucester Park on Tuesday of last week and trainer-reinsman Robbie Williams predicted that the Christian Cullen gelding would be seen in a different role at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Ohoka Kentucky will start from the No. 1 barrier and Williams will be aiming for an all-the-way win in the 2130m first heat of the San Simeon Pace.

The gelding started from barrier four at his latest appearance and Williams was content to keep him in sixth opposition in the one-wide line before setting him alight with a fast three-wide sprint 450m from home. Ohoka Kentucky burst to the front 150m later and raced away to beat The Oyster Bar by five lengths at a 1.56.3 rate over 1730m.

It was his fourth win from eight starts in Western Australia.

"He has worked on super since his latest outing, he's got good gate speed and is good in front," Williams said.

Ohoka Kentucky should be at reasonable odds because there is a lot of exposed form in the race, with Rowchester, Jay Bees Grin, Heez On Fire, Clifford, Mister Sarkozy and Borntobeanartist all worthy of serious consideration.

DELUXE EDITION HAS SOUND CLAIMS IN QUALIFYING HEAT

Four-year-old Deluxe Edition still has a tendency to pull hard in her races, but she looks a good bet in the second heat of the Im Themightyquinn Mares Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The daughter of Jet Laag, who is trained at Oakford by Ross Olivieri, warmed up for this event in fine style when she bowled along in front for Chris Voak and beat Jezaenkoubeauty and Firebomb over 2130m at a 1.58 rate at Gloucester Park on Tuesday of last week.

She has had 30 starts for eight wins and 12 placings and gave a sample of her class five starts ago when she finished second to star mare Leda McNally and ahead of the talented Famous Alchemist over 1730m at Gloucester Park.

She will start out wide at barrier five on the front line on Friday night and Voak looks sure to get her away to a fast start in a bid to take the lead in the early stages.

Olivieri has a good second string in the race in Arousing, whose prospects diminished when she drew the outside of the front line. Eight-year-old Kotare Ash is out of form and has managed one placing from her past ten starts. But she should appreciate the No. 1 barrier and is capable of causing an upset.

The consistent Arch On Fire will have many admirers from the inside of the back line. She has had 94 starts for 13 wins, 31 placings and $130,532 in stakes and should enjoy a perfect run on the pegs. She was ninth in the middle stages and sustained a strong three-wide burst to dead-heat for fourth behind Pure Empathy over 2130m last Friday night.

by Ken Casellas

 

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