Acid Test for Wildwest

Rising star Wildwest is spot on to tackle the three rich feature events for four-year-olds, but champion trainer Gary Hall Snr says that it will be far from a stroll in the park for the New Zealand-bred gelding when he starts from barrier six in the $50,000 Catalano Truck and Equipment 4YO Championship over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

But Hall remains optimistic that Wildwest will meet the challenge with his usual zest and retain his unbeaten before he tackles the $125,000 Simmonds Steel Four-Year-Old Classic and the $200,000 Retravision Golden Nugget over the next month.  

“He’s on target for all the big four-year-old classics and he seems to have all bases covered,” said Hall, who added: “From barrier six this week, he faces a real test against some very nice horses.

“Wildwest is a bit nervy, light-framed and a very good mover. He can stay and he’s got speed. You don’t have to be a star to win eight in a row, but I think that Wildwest is a star. In saying that, I admit that this is a hard race and he faces a real test this week.”

Wildwest, who has the services of the recently crowned winner of the Australian Drivers’ Championship in Gary Hall jnr, won by big margins at his first seven starts before he had his admirers on tenterhooks at his eighth start, in a $25,000 four-year-old feature event over 2185m at Pinjarra last Monday week, when he began from the outside barrier (five) on the back line.

Wildwest settled down in tenth position before he was sent forward, three wide, after 550m and quickly moved to the breeze outside the pacemaker Patrickthepiranha. These two geldings were locked together over the final 250m before Wildwest got up in the final stride to snatch victory by a half-head, rating 1.56.8.

“I didn’t have my heart in my mouth; I always thought he was going to win,” said Hall Snr. “I know that he didn’t win by much, but on the line he was surging clear. I’m not really all that apprehensive about watching him on Friday night. But I’d like to see him maintain his unbeaten record.”

The Hall stable will also be represented in this week’s event by Robbie Easton (Maddison Brown, barrier 2) and Eloquent Mach (Stuart McDonald, No. 2 on the back line).

Robbie Easton has won at nine of his 26 starts and has struck a purple patch with decisive Gloucester Park victories at his past three starts. He charged home, three wide, from sixth at the bell to win easily at a 1.56.2 rate last Friday night.

“Robbie Easton will go forward, but I’m not sure whether he can hold out Patrickthepiranha,” said Hall snr. “He goes good in front and we’d like to lead.” Eloquent Mach, who has won at 11 of his 22 starts, was a battling fourth behind Wildwest at Pinjarra after enjoying a cosy trip behind the pacemaker. “He was disappointing,” admitted Hall.

Dylan Egerton-Green, who will handle Patrickthepiranha, and Chris Lewis, who will drive Gee Jay Kay, are looking forward optimistically to Friday night’s race.

“Patrickthepiranha’s first two runs after a spell have been good and he definitely showed a lot more fitness from his first run to his second run,” Egerton-Green said. “So, I’m hoping he can keep on improving. The draw (barrier five) is a bit difficult, like it was at Pinjarra at his latest start (when the gelding showed explosive gate speed from barrier seven to burst to the front).

“I’ll have to assess (my tactics) early, about what’s going on, particularly with Robbie Easton, Sangue Reale and Gee Jay Kay on his inside. They are all racing well and this will be another good test for Patrickthepiranha, who was probably a bit unlucky when beaten a half-head by Wildwest at Pinjarra.

“He dropped a knee boot about 150 metres from the finish and this was in a quick quarter (26.7sec.) which didn’t help. The dropped knee boot affected him, but that’s racing. Wildwest has drawn right outside me this week and he’s probably got to do the same amount of work that I’ll need to do to get into the race.

“And Wildwest is not the only horse to beat. They are all quality horses and it’s definitely a match race between the whole lot. Since his run at Pinjarra Patrickthepiranha has worked really well, and so has his stablemate Its Rock And Roll. It probably boils down to who gets the most economical run.”

Gee Jay Kay, a winner at ten of his 23 starts and trained by Ross Olivieri, looms as a major player in this week’s event in which he is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. Gee Jay Kay gave an outstanding performance to win a stand over 2631m at Pinjarra on Monday of last week after galloping fiercely at the start.

“I reckon he gave the leaders about 60 metres start,” Lewis said. “And I didn’t expect him to do what he did. I thought that I’d just follow them around, but when we were coming in for the bell Gee Jay Kay was travelling a bit and I thought I’d flush a couple out and just track up and see how close we could get.

“Nothing came out, so I just kept going and he went on with the job really well. From barrier three this week he’s definitely going to be in play. He feels a different horse at the barrier now from what he was when I drove him at trials. He feels very confident and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets off the gate (begins fast).

“It is a very good field and Wildwest doesn’t know when to give up. These horses are all going to go to fast-class. It’s a very impressive field.”

The powerful Greg and Skye Bond stable will be represented by extremely smart New Zealand-bred pacers in Ana Afreet and Taroona Bromac, with the stable’s No. 1 reinsman Ryan Warwick handing punters a good tip by choosing to drive the lightly-raced Taroona Bromac, who will start from the outside of the back line.

At his debut in New Zealand Taroona Bromac was narrowly beaten before scoring impressive victories at his following seven starts, the latest being last Friday night when he set the pace and coasted to victory by more than four lengths from Robb Stark.

Ana Afreet, a winner at 12 of his 17 starts, is in sparkling form and will be driven by Bailey McDonough. However, he faces a stern test from out wide at barrier eight.