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A freakish injury to Chicago Bull has turned his connection’s New Zealand Trotting Cup dream into a nightmare. The brave little pacer surged to Cup favouritism with an incredible victory at Alexandra Park last Friday but an injury suffered just hours later means he won’t race again this season. The prolific pacing pony flipped over backwards when being treated on Saturday morning and fell on his back, ultimately suffering six or eight fractures to his whither region. “It didn’t look great but he seemed fine afterwards and we were able to jog him on Sunday and Monday,” says driver and caretaker trainer Gary Hall junior. “But then it got worse and his movement got worse so we took him to the vets where they discovered the fractures. “It is something I have heard of but never seen a horse get injured like that before. And the vet said he had seen a horse suffered a couple of fractures like that before but not six or eight. “The most important news is the long-term prognosis is good and they are confident he will be able to race again. “So he will have two months in a box here in Pukekohe, then two more months spelling and then maybe start jogging again. But this season is gone.” While Chicago Bull had numerous feature race options this season the one that burned brightest for the Halls was the New Zealand Cup in 13 days time. It is a race trainer Gary Hall senior has always cherished but been unable to get his best horses to for one reason or another. Now he has found the cruellest way of all to be ruled out of it. The way he won last Friday night Chicago Bull deserved favouritism for the Cup, especially in a year when the New Zealand open class ranks are lacking a genuine superstar. Instead for Team Hall the New Zealand Cup 2018 will forever be the one that got away. He joins a remarkable list of open class pacers who will be missing from this year’s Cup due to injury, sale or retirement. Of the biggest names who contested the Cups, Inter Dominion and/or the Miracle Mile carnival last season Lazarus, Vincent, Heaven Rocks, Soho Tribeca, My Field Marshal, Jilliby Kung Fu and Lennytheshark will not be around for the pivotal next six weeks during which the Cup and Inter Dominion will be decided. It is rare case of the Cup non-starters far outweighing the star power of those left in the great race, held for $800,000 at Addington on November 13. Tiger Tara is now the only Australian-trained pacer in the Cup and could well start favourite depending what happens at Addington on Friday night. One-time Cup favourite Ultimate Machete could snare that role back if he wins his final lead-up race over 2600m standing start in which he meets stablemate Dream About Me. But much like the Dominion Trot on November 16, which has been shorn of injured champion trotter Monbet, the Cup is the most open in years. One horse who won’t be coming to Cup week is in-form Victorian trotter Tornado Valley, with trainer Andy Gath deciding to stay home and concentrate on the Inter Dominion starting December 1 as the gelding doesn’t travel well. Michael Guerin

Gary Hall knows two things heading into Chicago Bull’s Alexandra Park debut tonight — he has the best horse in the race, and that may still not be enough to win. Hall is one of the biggest stars in Australian harness racing, doing most of the driving for the superstar team trained in West Australia by his father Gary senior.  “Junior” as he is universally known has unofficially taken over the training duties as Chicago Bull counts down to the New Zealand Cup in two and a half weeks, with tonight’s race a chance to keep him fit and get some much-needed standing start experience.  But while Hall is happy with the last-start Victoria Cup runner-up he admits there are some concerns tonight.  “I don’t really like the idea of a 20m back mark over the 2200m,” he says.  “It could make he race really tricky and it is also his first standing start, so while I’d be surprised if he blew it, he could settle last.  “That means we could be chasing for a while in his first start right-handed so there are a few things against us.” Hall says last season’s Inter Dominion runner-up has been working well right-handed and if this race was at his home track of Gloucester Park he would be red hot but the reality is punters should be careful with him tonight.  A crucial stage of the race will be the start because if Jack’s Legend can step safely from his 10m handicap and stay in front of Chicago Bull then he has a tactical advantage, especially if the field slows at any stage and it looks the lead is there.  Two runs back into his Cup campaign, Jack’s Legend should be fit enough to win and looks the best bet if Chicago Bull’s presence pushes him toward $3-$3.50.  Chicago Bull isn’t the only group one winner facing a stiff handicap tonight as Lemond and Temporale share a 50m backmark in the main trot but such has been their dual dominance of similar races in the past whoever settles in front of the other will probably still win.   Michael Guerin

Western Australia’s superstar pacer Chicago Bull will break fresh ground when he makes his first appearance in a standing-start event, in a $17,000 stand over 2200m at Auckland’s Alexandra Park on Friday night. The champion six-year-old, to be driven by Gary Hall Jnr, looks vastly superior to his six rivals and should notch his 40th victory at his 61st start in a race. Chicago Bull will start from the maximum back mark of 20m, with his chief rivals Lets Elope and Jacks Legend the two off the 10m line. Chicago Bull is a well-behaved and laid-back character who has begun smoothly in his only two appearances in standing-start trials and Hall is confident the brilliant gelding will be on his best behaviour behind the barrier strands. This will be a valuable lead-up for Chicago Bull before he contests the $800,000 New Zealand Cup, a stand over 3200m at Addington in Christchurch on Tuesday November 13. Lets Elope and Jacks Legend are also nominated for the big race. One of Chicago Bull’s toughest opponents in the New Zealand Cup will be Tiger Tara, who led all the way and beat Chicago Bull into second place in the 2200m Victoria Cup at Melton two Saturdays ago. Lets Elope is a ten-year-old in the twilight of his career of 158 starts for 25 wins and 45 placings for earnings of $559,129, while five-year-old Jacks Legend has raced 28 times for six wins and 12 placings for stakes of $329,131. Lets Elope and Jacks Legend clashed in a 2700m stand at Alexandra Park on October 12 when Lets Elope, a 16/1 chance off 10m, raced in third place on the pegs for the first lap before dashing to the front and going on to win at a 2.1.6 rate from the fast-finishing Jacks Legend. The final 800m was covered in 55.4sec. and the last 400m in 27.5sec. This ended a losing sequence of 33 fort Lets Elope, whose previous victory was in a $20,000 Free-For-All over 2190m at Mildura on April 8, 2017. Jacks Legend has a losing sequence of ten, with his most recent victory being in a 2700m stand at Alexandra Park in October last year. Two starts before that, Jacks Legend won the Group 1 Emerald for three-year-old colts and geldings, starting at 45/1 and beating hot favourite Ultimate Machete.   Ken Casellas

On the eve of his return to racing in New Zealand Chicago Bull’s managing owner Beth Richardson was last night awarded Life Membership of the WA Trotting Association at the 2018 Annual General Meeting. Chicago Bull is scheduled to start at Auckland’s Alexandra Park tomorrow night on his way to next month’s New Zealand Cup in Christchurch. Chicago Bull’s last start in New Zealand was on 30th May 2015 when he finished seventh in the Group One 2yo Emerald won by Lazarus. Mrs Richardson has raced horses since the mid 1960’s and Beth has now owned or part-owned 971 winners (127 individual horses). To date 702 of those winners have been in Perth at Gloucester Park and Richmond Raceway with 107 individual horses involved and Mrs Richardson owned her first Gloucester Park winner some 54 years ago courtesy of Pukka Sahib. Mrs Richardson has had 30 individual trainers of her 971 winners with Gary Hall training 855 of them. The first winner Hall trained for Mrs Richardson was Wilby Rich at Northam on 23rd May 1987. Wilby Rich was bred by Mrs Richardson in partnership with her husband John. The 855 winners trained by Gary Hall for Beth Richardson includes a remarkable 26 at Group One level,  32 at Group Two level and 19 at Group Three level, The first of those Group One winners was Tealsby Karita which won the WA Pacing Cup on 23rd March 2007 which means the 26 Group One wins have come in just 11 years. The balance of Mrs Richardson’s Group One winners comprises three-time Inter Dominion winner Im Themightyquinn, Chicago Bull, Beaudiene Boaz, Alta Christiano and the 2018 WA Derby winner King Of Swing. An emotional Mrs Richardson, in accepting her Life Member’s badge from Gloucester Park President John Burt, described the great joy her and her husband have got from harness racing and the thrills of racing Im Themightyquinn. Mrs Richardson is just the second woman to be made a Life Member of the WA Trotting Association which was formed in 1910 and currently trades under the name of Gloucester Park Harness Racing.   Alan Parker    

Gary Hall is hoping a change of trainer can transform Chicago Bull from a Victoria Cup runner-up to a New Zealand Cup winner. The pride of Perth arrives in New Zealand on Thursday and is likely to stay a month with the $800,000 Cup at Addington on November 13 his main aim. Had Chicago Bull won the Victoria Cup at Melton last Saturday he could well have threatened for favouritism in New Zealand’s greatest harness race but he had to settle for a well-beaten second behind Tiger Tara, who is also bound for Addington but will race at Menangle this Saturday first. Hall’s usually unshakable confidence was initially dented by the Victoria Cup defeat. “I first glance I thought he was disappointing,” he admits. “But then when I analyzed it and the lead time was so slow, it was like sitting parked outside Tiger Tara over a mile. “You are not going to win doing that and obviously we didn’t. But at the top of the straight our fella was all done and he still fought on really well for second. “So he can still win the New Zealand Cup.” Not that Hall will have as much input as usual into Chicago Bull’s preparation with his son and regular driver Gary junior taking over the hands-on training for almost all the New Zealand campaign, albeit in an unofficial capacity. “Gary is going over with him this week and staying right through until after the New Zealand Cup, he won’t be coming back to drive here in Perth. “Gary actually did most of the training with Quinny (I’m Themightyquinn) when he raced in the Inter Dominion in Auckland in 2011, which we ended up winning after Smoken Up was disqualified.  “So he thinks he is the man for the job so I will only come over a few days before the Cup,” laughs Hall. Chicago Bull flies into Auckland in the hope the Auckland Trotting Club will hold the programmed open class race at Alexandra Park next Friday as his final lead-up to the Cup.  With Star Galleria already in the south and Northview Hustler and No Doctor Needed nominated for the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday the northern open class stocks will be getting pretty thin by next week.  But Let’s Elope and Jacks Legend, who quinellaed last Friday’s Holmes D G, are likely to accept for next Friday along with a few others and the Auckland Trotting Club have been keen to support pre-NZ Cup open class racing in recent years so the race should get off the ground.  “That would be ideal for us because he needs the standing start practice, he has never been from one in a race,” says Hall.  “He has had a couple of trials over here from a stand but that is a lot diferent from a race.” Chicago Bull versus Jacks Legend is very much a spring treat for Alexandra Park regulars as they were both runner-ups to Lazarus at the highest level last season, Jacks Legend in the New Zealand Cup and Chicago Bull in the Inter Dominion.  The pair staying in the north for their final lead-up races also adds to the intrigue of an already fascinating New Zealand Cup, which in recent years has seen most of the top chances race each other and establish a clear pecking order before they get to Addington.  That won’t be the case this season because while some of the Cup favourites like Ultimate Machete and Dream About Me will head to Ashburton on Monday others like Star Galleria and Methven Cup winner Cruz Bromac will bypass that race, ensuring lots of varying formlines heading into the Cup.   Michael Guerin

The Justin Prentice-trained Rocknroll Lincoln has made it back-to-back wins to start the new season, taking out the Fred Doy Memorial (2130m) at Gloucester Park last night. Reinsman Gary Hall Jnr fired the $2.50 TABtouch favourite Rocknroll Lincoln to the lead early in the race, a move which proved to be a race winner. Rocknroll Lincoln’s closest rival in the market was Mister Versace ($2.80), who was forced to settle directly behind Hall Jnr after the early move. The five-year-old came home in 56.5 to hold off a game Kasey John and Soky’s Bigbullet, while Mister Versace was couldn’t get clear running and had to settle for fourth. Trainer Justin Prentice said he left it up to Hall Jnr to decide how he would drive the son of Rocknroll Hanover and was pleased with how the race panned out. “It was good,” he said. “Junior changed his mind on the track and decided to go forward. “He showed really good speed and he got a got breather in the middle which he probably needed. “It was good for him to hit the line strongly.” It was one of three wins on the night for Hall Jnr, who also teamed up with King Of Swing in the Retravision Online Pace (2130m) and You Gotta Have Faith in the Kelvinator Pace (2130m). King Of Swing kept his Golden Nugget preparation firmly on track with his sixth win from seven starts this campaign. Hall Jnr went to the front from barrier three and never looked in danger of being beaten, despite a game effort from his stablemate Extreme Prince, who got within a metre over the closing stages. Meanwhile, Tanaka Eagle has recorded his first Friday night win at Gloucester Park since January, taking out the Electrolux Pace (2130m). Reinsman Mark Reed had little problem finding the front with Tanaka Eagle and he was able to control the tempo of the race from there. Tanaka Eagle, who competed in the Inter Dominion series last year, recorded his 20th win from 196 starts last night, much to the delight of his trainer Reg Phillips. Elsewhere at Gloucester Park, star mare Eden Franco made a strong return to the track in the Retravision.com.au Pace, where she defeated Mitch Maguire. Kyle Harper also drove a double on the night, one he trained in Thereugo, before he teamed up with the Errol Ashcroft-trained Kissmecougar in the penultimate event of the night. Tim Walker

Trainer Gary Hall Sr couldn’t have scripted Chicago Bull’s build-up to tomorrow night’s $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup (2240m) any better. Well, maybe he’d have drawn the pole and not barrier three, but everything else has been world perfect. “I won’t have any excuse in the world if he’s beaten,” Hall Sr said. “He’s had a perfect build-up, handled the trip across really well on Wednesday, settled in superbly and the draw is certainly good enough. “This has been his first major target for six months now and everything has fallen into place. “It’s now just a matter of whether he’s good enough and we certainly think he is.” Chicago Bull has eased slightly from $2.20 to $2.25 with the Aussie TAB since Tuesday’s barrier draw, mainly because of strong support for rivals Shadow Sax ($6.50 to $5.50) and Mach Doro ($26 to $10) along with talk barrier three could prove tricky. “Of course we’ve looked long and hard at the draw and thought of all the possibilities, but it’s over to Junior (driver Gary Hall Jr). That’s his job and there’s nobody better at it in these big races,” Hall Sr said. “He’s got more speed than a lot people realise, but the danger in going too hard early is how much petrol we have to spend and the risk of not finding the lead.” Hall Sr did, however, hint at his preferred driving tactics. “My horses traditionally go better when they’re not used too hard at the start. It’s always been the case. It must be the way I train them,” he said. “Ultimately it’s Junior’s call what he does at the start, but this little bloke is versatile enough to win a few different ways. I even think he could win sitting parked as long as the leader had to do some early work to hold the front.” Hall Sr conceded tomorrow night was an obvious class rise from Chicago Bull’s recent WA dominance which has seen him win past nine starts and 12 of his past 13. “You could say he’s been beaten glorified claimers at home, but it’s the way he’s been doing it and the sectional times he’s been running,” he said. “And let’s not forget he competed so well against the best of the best in the Inter Dominion last year. “I’ve got no doubt, none at all, that’s he’s a better horse now than when he ran second to Lazarus in last year’s Inter final. “And I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation. I’ve left something in tank along the way, but I’ve wound him up for this and then it’s onto NZ.” Chicago Bull is booked on a flight from Melbourne to Auckland next Thursday and plans remain for him to tackle a 2200m standing-start race at Alexandra Park on October 26 ahead of going south for the NZ Cup. “He’ll thrive on this hard racing. Look how well he handled the Inter Dominion series last year,” Hall Sr said.   Adam Hamilton

Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr has no hesitation in declaring Im Themightyquinn as the best horse he has prepared. The retired champion won 58 races, including three Inter Dominion Championships and earned $4,567,456 in prizemoney. But Hall was unable to win the prestigious Victoria Cup with three attempts with Im Themightyquinn. “He didn’t have any luck in his three Victoria Cup runs and now I’m hoping it will be fourth-time lucky with Chicago Bull in the Cup on Saturday night,” Hall said. Chicago Bull has won at 39 of his 59 starts and is in peak form after effortless wins at his past nine starts. He is handily drawn at the No. 3 barrier on the front line in this week’s $200,000 Victoria Cup over 2240m. He possesses excellent gate speed, but it is problematic that he will be able to cross the speedy Tiger Tara, who begins from the No. 2 barrier. Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr said “There’s a bit of speed on the inside and the outside and I’ll have a few decisions to make early. But he’s good enough to win.” Tiger Tara, trained by Kevin Pizzuto and to be handled by Todd McCarthy, appeals as the toughest for Chicago Bull to beat. Tiger Tara and Chicago Bull last clashed when they met in the final of the Inter Dominion Championship over 2936m at Gloucester Park last December. Tiger Tara led from the No. 1 barrier and was still in front on the home turn.  He fought on grandly to finish third behind Lazarus and Chicago Bull. Before that, he raced in the breeze when second to Chicago Bull in a 2536m qualifying heat, led and won a 2100m heat from Lazarus (at Bunbury) and had a tough run in the breeze when second to Lennytheshark over 2130m. Im Themightyquinn contested the Victoria Cup at Melton in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He was favourite at $3.50 in 2010 when he was in 11th place in the one-wide line, under lock and key with 500m to travel before getting clear approaching the home turn and thundering home, six wide, to finish third to Mr Feelgood. In 2011, Im Themightyquinn was the $4.20 second favourite from the No. 2 barrier. He raced in sixth position in the one-out, two-back position and was held up for most of the final circuit before finishing last behind Smoken Up. Then a year later he was the $1.60 favourite from barrier three. He led for the first 500m and then trailed the pacemaker Terrorway before getting clear 300m from home and after going three wide on the home turn and hitting the front 130m from the post he wilted slightly and finished third behind Caribbean Blaster. Ken Casellas

Sparks are likely to fly in the early stages of the $22,000 Fred Doy Memorial at Gloucester Park on Friday night when polemarker Mister Versace and veteran pacer Sokys Big Bullet are expected to be locked in a battle for the early lead. If that transpires and the early speed is fast, it will play into the hands of classy five-year-old Rocknroll Lincoln, who faces a testing time from the outside barrier (No. 9) on the front line in the 2130m event. Rocknroll Lincoln is an M4-class pacer and the best-assessed runner in the race and the Justin Prentice-trained stallion will have the services of champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr who drove the horse four times as a four-year-old for two wins (including the group 3 Narrogin Cup in which he beat Our Jimmy Johnstone). Prentice produced Rocknroll Lincoln in fine fettle for his first-up run at Gloucester Park last Friday week when Jocelyn Young was in the sulky. Rocknroll Lincoln started from barrier six and enjoyed a perfect passage, one-out and one-back, before sprinting home brilliantly to get up and win from the pacemaker Speed Man, with final quarters in 28.3sec. and 27.7sec. Chris Voak will drive Mister Versace for Banjup trainer Annie Belton and he is sure to seriously contemplate attempting an all-the-way victory. Voak took full advantage of the No. 1 barrier four starts ago when he guided Mister Versace to a strong all-the-way win over Madame Meilland. However, Mister Versace is likely to be challenged hard for the lead by nine-year-old Sokys Big Bullet, who will start from the No. 2 barrier. Reinsman Giles Inwood said that he was sure that the gelding’s trainer Tony Svilicich would instruct him to attempt to get to an early lead and then set a solid pace. Sokys Big Bullet’s three runs since resuming from a spell have been encouraging. He followed his third to Speed Man and fourth to Argyle Red with a fighting second to the pacemaker Overboard Again last Friday night when he worked hard three wide early (from barrier six) and then in the breeze. The Errol Ashcroft-trained Forever Remembered ran a splendid trial for this week’s race when she started from barrier seven and was last in a field of 11 at the bell before dashing home from eighth at the 400m and going six wide on the home turn to get up and win from Neighlor. Forever Remembered will again be driven by Kyle Harper, who is hoping that the eight-year-old will become only the second mare to win the Doy Memorial, which was first run in 2006. The only mare to have won the race was the Victorian-bred Smooth Hayley, who was driven by Chris Lewis and defeated Mon Gee and Master Beaudale. Lewis, who has also won this event with Tee Pee Village (2008), Sneakyn Down Under (2013) and Our Jericho (2016), will drive the Svilicich-trained Cyclone Mitch from barrier seven. The ten-year-old’s most recent success was in March 2016. Ken Casellas

The time for talk is over. Following the departure of superstar pacer and reigning Grand Circuit champion Lazarus to the northern hemisphere earlier this year, the debate has raged. Who holds the mantle as the best pacer in this part of the world? And everybody has an opinion. Many believe pint-sized Perth based pacer Chicago Bull is the heir apparent, his form is without doubt sensational in his home state but he’s yet to prove himself on the eastern seaboard. Until now. The ‘Wonder from The West’ has arrived in Melbourne in preparation for Saturday night’s Gr.1 $200,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup, the opening leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series. Prepared by the masterful father/son combination of Gary Hall Snr and Jnr, the Bettors Delight six-year-old has won his past 9 starts - all at his home track of Gloucester Park. But history is against the millionaire pacer. Since first being staged back in 1974 when Kings Mead scored, only once has a sandgroper proven triumphant and that was the mighty Preux Chevalier back in 1984. And since the turn of the millennium, Perth trained pacers haven’t fired in the Garden State feature. That list also includes champion pacer Im Themightyquinn (58 wins - $ 4,567,456). Six runners have attempted to grab glory but the best result is a 6th placing (twice). 2015 - David Hercules - 6th behind Christen Me 2013 - Im Victorious - 12th behind For A Reason 2011 - Im Themightyquinn - 12th behind Smoken Up 2005 - Ohoka Ace - 8th behind Be Good Johnny 2003 - Baltic Eagle - 9th behind Young Rufus 2000 - Saab - 6th behind Breenys Fella So, can the ‘Bull’ etch his name into the record books? Can Snr and Jnr claim more Grand Circuit glory? As it stands, Snr has trained 26 Grand Circuit winners while Jnr has driven 22 Grand Circuit winners. Standing in their way is 11 rivals boasting outstanding credentials headlined by local ace Shadow Sax, prepared by record breaking Emma Stewart, fresh from her 309 win season last term. Triple Victoria Cup winning reinsman Chris Alford will partner Shadow Sax and aims for his 19th Grand Circuit victory. The late Vin Knight remains the most winningest driver of the Victoria Cup with 5 victories. Fellow Victorian based trainer David Aiken, a dual Cup winner with recently retired Lennytheshark, prepares both Im The Boss and Wrappers Delight. Im The Boss, a winner of the Cobram, Mildura, Shepparton and Kilmore Cups will be handled by Greg Sugars while Kima Frenning sticks with in-form pacer and last start Smoken Up Sprint winner Wrappers Delight. The last female driver to land success in the Victoria Cup was Kate Gath (Caribbean Blaster) back in 2012. Three female drivers have won the Victoria Cup – Kate Gath, Amy Tubbs and Natalie Rasmussen. Speaking of the fairer sex, both Carlas Pixel and Ameretto are both looking to become the first mare to win the Victoria Cup. The Dean Braun trained Carlas Pixel, the recently crowned Australian Mare of the Year; finished an eye-catching 5th last week while the Kerryn Manning prepared Ameretto finished a close-up second behind Wrappers Delight after sitting in the trail. But both mares have drawn awkwardly off the second-line. The state of New South Wales has a proud and strong history in the Victoria Cup and head south with strength in numbers this year. Winners that have come from north of the Murray River include Don’t Retreat (1976), Paleface Adios (1977), Koala King (1978, 79 & 80), Frosty Imp (1981), Jofess (2002), Double Identity (2003), Mr Feelgood (2010) and For a Reason (2013). Koala King remains the only pacer to have claimed three Victoria Cups. The team from the Harbour City this year has five representatives including a trio from the Shane and Lauren Tritton stable with Gotta Go Ya Hu, Franco Nelson and My Alpha Rock as they chase their biggest victory. Lauren Tritton will partner Franco Nelson and like Kima Frenning, is aiming to become the latest female to drive a winner of the Victoria Cup. Kevin Pizzuto is duly represented with millionaire Tiger Tara and last start Paul Fitzpatrick FFA winner Majordan stepping out while Craig Cross will start last start Les Chant Cup winner Mach Doro. Dual Victorian Cup winning driver Luke McCarthy will take the drive behind the speedy beginner. Surprisingly, there is no representation from New Zealand this year. The 2018 Victorian Cup field has won 263 races collectively while amassing more than $6.7 million in stakes. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  With the associated opportunities for promotion and marketing, this benefits owners and harness racing clubs as well as the industry overall.  In its first season in 1977, total stakemoney for the eight races forming the Circuit was $554,020.  Now, the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series is racing for total stakemoney of $3.65 million. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion. So, who will strike the first blow in the new season of Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit racing? Time will tell.   Chris Barsby

There's no shortage of scratched heads throughout Australian trotting stables as some of the sport's greatest minds try to break down the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup post-barrier draw, including the man many think is in the box seat. Trainer Gary Hall Snr's favourite Chicago Bull makes his interstate debut in Saturday night's Group 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton, and the proud West Australian joined RSN 927 today to share his thoughts. "It's a bit tricky," Hall said. "Barrier three - where does (Chicago Bull) go? He's got good gate speed, but I wouldn't imagine Tiger Tara (gate 2) will let him cross him. "Nobody's sure what the one (Gotta Go Ya Hu) is going to do, whether it will hold up or whether it will hand over to Tiger Tara. You can't afford to do too much speed battling early because it doesn't matter how good you are you are going to be left wide open at the end." Hall said much of the deciding would be left in the hands of reinsman Gary Hall Jnr. "Junior's got a little bit of a tricky draw and he'll probably come out and have a look at what's going on and assess," he said. "As you know there's probably no one better in the game at doing that than he is. I've left it all in his hands. "There's quite a few different scenarios. If Mach Doro comes out a 100 mile an hour and crosses, Chicago Bull may even find the front. If Mach Doro doesn't come out, then I think Tiger Tara will find the front. Then it depends on if the one hands over and then it depends how fast horses like Franco Nelson and Im The Boss and all those horses go. It's a very hard race to read what's actually going to happen." Read more here!   Trots Media

See how Chicago Bull's driver, Gary Hall Jnr, rates his #VictoriaCup barrier draw; as the mighty #ChicagoBull heads off on his whirlwind Gr.1 tour of Australasia! PLUS: King of Swing, Rocknroll Lincoln AND a very nice pick-up drive for Jnr on NZ Cup day!   Ken Casellas

Chicago Bull’s driver Gary Hall Jnr forecasted improvement in the six-year-old ahead of last night’s Group 2 J.P. Stratton Cup (2130m) and, sure enough, he delivered one of his best performances yet this campaign. The returning Talktomeurmattjesty made Chicago Bull work for the lead in the early stages of the $50,000 event. Hall Jnr initially took a sit behind Talktomeurmattjesty, before he made his move to the front on the turn out of the home straight the first time. Despite having to run a slick 37.0 lead time to eventually find the front, Chicago Bull never looked in any danger of being beaten throughout the run and went on to win by 8m. Talktomeurmattjesty and Argyle Red finished second and third respectively. Chicago Bull flies out for Victoria on Wednesday, before his first run on the east coast in the Victoria Cup next Saturday. Owner Glen Moore said he wasn’t concerned by the early speed Chicago Bull had to use to find the front. “It worked out very well for us early,” he said. “We had the plan that Junior was going to be aggressive early because we had the gut feeling the one horse (Talktomeurmattjesty) may hand over. “Junior had to work around the bird cage bend a bit, but then he relaxed nicely.” Moore said he was confident Chicago Bull was ready for his first trip to the east coast and indicated there could be even more improvement left in the gelding. “We’re really happy with him,” he said. “We’ve left a bit of improvement in him because we haven’t been doing too much at home. “His coast is still a little dull, so we think he is on the way up. “They have to prove themselves when they travel. “We’re comfortable with the fact that we think he will travel alright.” Chicago Bull completed a winning treble on the night for the Gary Hall Snr and Jnr combination, after Overboard Again and King Of Swing saluted earlier in the night. The news wasn’t as good for the Hall’s other short price favourite on the night Speed Man, who had little luck in the Perth Plasterboard Centre Pace (2536m). Last season’s leading driver Shannon Suvaljko also enjoyed a double at the meeting with Shes Turbo Charged and Always Arjay. Tim Walker

Chicago Bull will take centre stage yet again at Gloucester Park tomorrow night, but it’s some of the lesser likes that has driver Gary Hall Jnr excited heading to the 10 race program. Hall Jnr teams up with trainer Gary Hall Snr on four short price favourites, including Chicago Bull and WA Derby winner King Of Swing. Tomorrow night’s Group 2 J.P Stratton Cup (2130m) will round out Chicago Bull’s preparations for the Victoria and New Zealand Cups over the next month. Hall Jnr said getting the six-year-old through the run in one piece was his priority. “First and foremost, we would like him to win,” he said. “We wouldn’t like him to be beaten before Melbourne. “We do hope him to get through the run.” Hall Jnr said he would look to adopt similar tactics with Chicago Bull to what he has done in previous starts, hoping to slowly work his way to the front from barrier six. Chicago Bull’s stablemate Runrunjimmydunn is expected to provide the most formidable opposition tomorrow night, but Hall Jnr said a lot would have to go right for him to beat Chicago Bull. The first of Hall Jnr’s favourites on the night is five-year-old  consistent gelding Overboard Again in the Glenroy Chaff Pace (2130m). Overboard Again has barrier one for tomorrow night’s event and Hall Jnr said he was hopeful he would be able to lead all the way. “He worked really well yesterday,” he said. “There are a couple of fast beginners outside of him, but I’m confident. “I think from the pole he will be able to hold the lead and be hard to beat.” King Of Swing went down narrowly to Motu Premier in last Friday night’s Media Guild Cup and has the chance to bounce back in tomorrow night’s Yes Loans Pace (2130m) from barrier three. Despite being beaten as a $1.50 chance last week, Hall Jnr said he was pleased with King Of Swing’s performance and expected him to get back on the winners list tomorrow night. “After a lap last week I thought he was no hope,” he said. “He pulled really hard and he hadn’t had the preparation we would’ve liked leading into that race. “If that race was this week, I think he would win.” Fellow four-year-old Speed Man was also as a short price favourite last week, but, similarly to King Of Swing, Hall Jnr said he expected a bold showing tomorrow night. “Speed Man is in really good form,” he said. “This looks like a drop in class for him and hopefully he will end up outside the leader at some stage.” Tomorrow night’s Gloucester Park meeting gets underway at 5.20pm. Tim Walker

An eye-catching performance at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night by veteran pacer Lot Twenty One was a strong pointer to a return to the winning list. The seven-year-old who has a poor winning record of just five per cent (six wins from 112 starts) will start from the No. 2 barrier on the front line in the final event, the 1730m GP Italian Fireworks Night Pace, has sound prospects of ending a losing sequence of 16. He began from the outside of the back line on Tuesday night and raced in eighth position before Chris Lewis moved him into sixth position, three wide, at the bell. He sustained his effort and finished second to the pacemaker Whoswhointhezoo. That was the gelding’s fifth start for Hopeland trainer Debra Lewis, with those starts producing four seconds and a third. Hardest for Lot Twenty One to beat is likely to be Hes Royal Blue, a five-year-old trained at Busselton by Barry Howlett. He is the youngest runner in the field of ten, and has, by far, the best winning record of 25 per cent. Hes Royal Blue will be driven by Gary Hall Jnr from barrier five and will have many admirers. He was an all-the-way Gloucester Park winner from barrier three six starts ago and he drops considerably in class from, with his recent encouraging efforts including a third to Benhope Rulz, a sixth to Mitch Maguire and a fourth behind Bright Diamond. The more one studies the form, the brighter Hes Royal Blue’s winning prospects appear. Estilo, a nine-year-old having his fourth start for trainer-reinsman Kristian Hawkins, will have friends after drawing the prized No. 1 barrier over the sprint journey.  He has won at 12 of his 125 starts and has managed just three placings from 19 Gloucester Park starts. His losing sequence is 31, which certainly is considerably better than that of nine-year-old Dagati Image, who has not won at any of his past 57 starts. Champion reinsmen Lewis and Hall should fight out the finish after appearing set for earlier successes on the ten-event program. Lewis should prove hard to beat with the Sonia Zucchiatti-trained Destined To Rule in the Maureen Clement Memorial Handicap, a 2503m stand in which Destined To Rule will start from the inside of the front line. His chief rivals are likely to be Always Arjay and Jason Rulz. Hall has excellent prospects with Overboard Again (race two), King of Swing (race three), Speed Man (race five) and Chicago Bull (race six). “I will be attempting to lead with Overboard Again from barrier one and he should be hard to beat,” said Hall. “And King of Swing and Speed Man are sure to appreciate a drop in class after last-start seconds.”   Ken Casellas

“It’s all systems go,” declared champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr as he said that superstar Chicago Bull, Australasia’s best pacer, was spot on to contest rich feature events over the next three months. And he said that he had no concerns over the outstanding six-year-old’s ability to handle the standing start in the $800,000 New Zealand Cup over 3200m at Addington on Tuesday, November 13. The mighty little gelding has not contested a stand in a glittering career of 58 starts for 38 wins and 15 placings for earnings of $1,624,424. After predicting that Chicago Bull would extend his winning sequence to nine by beating his six rivals in the $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night, Hall said that he was not worried about the gelding handling the standing start and beginning smoothly in the Group 1 New Zealand Cup. “I know that he hasn’t raced in a stand yet, but he’s a good pacer and we don’t have to worry about pins and all that,” he said. “His hopples are too small, anyway. We gave him a trial in a stand at Byford three months ago and he felt as though I could push him out as fast as I wanted.” That was Chicago Bull’s second standing-start trial. He also paced away faultlessly at Byford in a trial in July 2017. Chicago Bull will leave Perth by air for Melbourne on Wednesday of next week and Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall Snr is sure to have him at his peak for the Victoria Cup, a 2200m mobile at Melton on Saturday, October 13. “If all goes well in the Victoria Cup, Chicago Bull will leave for New Zealand on the following Thursday (the 18th),” Hall Jnr said. “We then plan to run him in a 2200m stand at Alexandra Park on October 26 before travelling from Auckland down to Christchurch for the Cup. “All’s well with Chicago Bull and he’s had just two hoppled runs since winning the Navy Cup last Friday week. I expect him to win again this week and it would be good for him to have a relatively hard race before going away. I expect Talktomeurmattjesty to lead from barrier one and run along a bit. “I certainly would like Chicago Bull to keep the picket fence against his name, and that would give us a bit of extra confidence going into the big races away from home.” One of Chicago Bull’s main rivals in the New Zealand Cup looms as five-year-old Ultimate Machete, who is due to resume racing after an absence of nine months in a race at Addington on Friday night. His most recent appearance was at Gloucester Park last January when he finished fourth behind My Hard Copy, Lazarus and Chicago Bull in the 2536m Fremantle Cup. Earlier, in November and December last year Ultimate Machete won the Group 1 Four-Year-Old Classic and the Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park. After contesting the New Zealand Cup, Chicago Bull will be set for the Inter Dominion championships series in Melbourne in December. The Hall father-and-son combination is no strangers to big-race successes in New Zealand, with Im Themightyquinn winning the $400,000 Auckland Cup in March 2011, the $800,000 Inter Dominion championship at Addington in April 2011 and the $250,000 Auckland Cup in March 2013. The Halls have combined to win the Stratton Cup with Bengeeman (2002), Alzona (2011) and Waylade (2015) and Chicago Bull is racing with such confidence and brilliance that it is extremely difficult to visualise him being beaten on Friday night. Chicago Bull will start from the No. 6 barrier in a field of seven and Hall Jnr will assess his tactics as the race unfolds. Busselton trainer Barry Howlett has the lightly-raced Talktomeurmattjesty working in good style and the even-year-old appeals as the likely leader. At his first outing since he had a tough run, three wide for much of the way, before fading to 11th behind Real Lucky at Gloucester Park on May 25. Talktomeurmattjesty will be driven by Chris Lewis, who has won the Stratton Cup seven times with Black Irish (1983), Village Kid (1985, 1988, 1991), Ohoka Ace (2005), Sneakyn Down Under (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2014). The Michael Brennan-trained The Bucket List (Michael Grantham) has excellent place prospects after several strong efforts in recent starts. He was seventh (and last) at the bell before finishing fast, out four wide, to be a close fourth, less than a length behind the winner Motu Premier in the Media Guild Cup last Friday night. He sat behind the pacemaker Chicago Bull before running on gamely to finish second to that pacer in the Navy Cup the previous week. Tricky Styx, a fast-finishing winner last week, is likely to be engaged in a keen duel with Talktomeurmattjesty, Waylade, Runrunmjimmydunn and Argyle Red for third place. Ken Casellas

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