A sizzling final quarter in 26.8sec. by star pacer Im Victorious in a track workout at Pinjarra last Saturday morning excited champion reinsman Gary Hall jun. who will be reunited with the five-year-old when he drives him in the $250,000 Yes Loans Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Hall replaces Justin Prentice, who has done an outstanding job in driving Im Victorious at his past 25 starts for 17 wins.
Hall drove Im Victorious at three of his first four starts for three victories and has high hopes that he will maintain his unbeaten record behind him by winning the 2536m Fremantle Cup.
“The barrier (No. 4 on the back line) is not the best, but Im Victorious is potentially the best horse in the field,” Hall said. “I drove him on the track at Pinjarra on Saturday morning and we worked with two mothers and went pretty good. He went like you would expect him to go and Mouse (trainer Michael Brennan) said it was the quickest he had worked down there.
“He went a tick under 3min. 3sec. for the mile and a half and covered the last quarter in 26.8sec. It is a pretty quick track, but the cones were out and we were about three and four wide. I was more happy with the way he pulled up. The workout didn’t worry him at all.
“He had to travel back from Victoria (after the Victoria Cup), had a few days off and a few days jogging. He had had only one track run before Saturday’s workout and I’m looking forward to driving him again. Obviously he has a big future and this is just the start of something.
“When I drove him as a three-year-old (in February and March 2012) he was really laid-back. I knew he was good, but you couldn’t gauge how good he was because he only did what he had to do to win. There always seemed to be a little bit more there all the time, when you asked for it. He’s the complete racehorse.”
Hall named Bettors Fire as the hardest for Im Victorious to beat and said that he had no set plans how he was going to drive Im Victorious. “I’ll probably make up my mind regarding tactics when I’m out there,” he said. “I’ll see how hard they come out of the gate and what happens early.”
Hall has won the Fremantle Cup five times with pacers trained by his father Gary. They have been successful with The Falcon Strike twice and with Im Themightyquinn three times. Im Themightyquinn failed to win the Cup four times in a row when he started at 5/2 on and raced in the breeze over the final 900m before being beaten a head by the pacemaker Dasher VC in last year’s event.
Hall sen. has three runners in this year’s Cup --- Livingontheinterest (barrier two), Toretto (three) and Hokonui Ben (five). Brennan has a second string in This Time Dylan, who will start from the No. 4 barrier and will be driven by Justin Prentice.
Luivingontheinterest, who also started from barrier two in last year’s Cup (in which he finished fourth) will be handled by Kim Prentice, Clint Hall will drive the in-form Hokonui Ben and Shane Butcher is likely to get the drive behind Toretto.
Chris Voak has opted to drive Leda McNally in preference to Red Salute, citing the barrier draw for his decision. Leda McNally, trained by Chris King, will start from barrier three on the back line, with Red Salute, a smart winner last Friday night, faring poorly by drawing the outside (No. 7) on the front line.
Leda McNally is the only mare in the Cup and Voak gives her a sound winning chance. “We need luck and speed in the race,” Voak said. “It’s a good draw for her and she’s in form. I used her out of the gate last week to get a spot and she was on the speed for the first 700m while Shardons Rocket and Ima Rocket Star had a duel.
“Then I was the only horse who was on the speed who made any impression late. And she went down by only a head (to This Time Dylan).”
TRUCKERS RUFFNUT TO REAPPEAR AFTER A 39-MONTH ABSENCE
Former star juvenile pacer Truckers Ruffnut will make his first appearance in a race after an absence of 39 months when he contests the 2536m Yes Loans Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and Bunbury trainer Murray Hansen predicts a strong first-up showing.
“He damaged a suspensory in 2010 and then hurt his other front leg,” Hansen said. “This is our fourth attempt to get him back. The previous three were unsuccessful when we got him right up to trialling before he went amiss.
“It’s so far, so good this preparation. His legs are fantastic and he’s got through two trials with flying colours. Justin Prentice drove him in his latest trial when he sat last before running home to finish second to Dasher VC (on Monday of last week).”
The final quarters were covered in 27.6sec. and 28.3sec. “We clocked him coming home in 55.1sec.,” Hansen said. Eight days before that Ryan Bell drove Truckers Ruffnut in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra in which he dashed over the final quarters in 28.6sec. and 29sec. and beat Madeline Holly by a head.
“He’s very classy and he doesn’t feel like that he’s lost anything,” Hansen said. “Just before he broke down he was ready to show his best and was definitely a Cups horse. It’s been a long road back and barrier five is not ideal, but he’s the class horse of the race and can win. He has had a lot of work and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Truckers Ruffnut, now an eight-year-old, has earned $221,420 from 18 wins and 14 placings from 47 starts. At his most recent appearance he started off 10m and finished second to frontmarker Christopher Three in a 2503m event at Gloucester Park on October 15, 2010. He had won at two of his three previous starts.
As a three-year-old in 2009 Truckers Ruffnut won the group 3 WA Sales Classic, the group 1 $100,000 State Sires Series and the consolation of the Breeders Crown at Melton.
By Ken Casellas