Ana Malak Can Overcome Wide Draw

Being the most inexperienced runner and drawing out wide at barrier No. 8 are not insurmountable problems for star New Zealand-bred five-year-old Ana Malak, who will be appearing at Gloucester Park for just the fourth time when he contests the Group 2 $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup on Friday night.

Prepared by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond and to be driven by star reinsman Ryan Warwick, Ana Malak has the class to emerge triumphant against stiff opposition which includes talented stablemates and last-start winners El Jacko and Vampiro.

The Bond runners are in top form and could well, with a slice of luck, produce a trifecta result, similar to the stable’s remarkable performance to provide the first five placegetters in the group 1 Golden Nugget Championship last December --- when Ana Malak won by a short half-head from Mighty Conqueror. These two brilliant pacers were followed home, in order, by Fizzing, Bright Diamond and Bettor Aim.

Ana Malak’s Nugget triumph followed the horse’s success in the group 1 Four-Year-Old Classic at his West Australian debut. Ana Malak campaigned in Victoria in April, May and June for four wins, two thirds and one fourth from seven starts --- and he resumed after a four-month absence when he contested the Howard Porter Memorial two Fridays ago.

With Dylan Egerton-Green in the sulky (replacing the suspended Warwick), Ana Malak was restrained from barrier seven before quickly mustering pace and dashing forward to work in the breeze outside the pacemaker Vampiro. Ana Malak fought on grimly and finished second, one metre behind Vampiro.

Colin Brown will again handle Vampiro, who will start from the No. 6 barrier. Brown and Greg and Skye Bond combined to win the 2012 Stratton Cup when Russley Rascal, favourite at 7/4 on from barrier one, set the pace and held on grimly to score by a half-head from the fast-finishing Mysta Magical Mach. A year later, in the 2013 Stratton Cup, the Bond-trained Ima Rocket Star (a 5/1 chance driven by Brown) finished determinedly to be second to the Im Victorious.

Egerton-Green will drive El Jacko from the prized No. 1 barrier and the seven-year-old will have an army of admirers. He notched his 22nd from 61 starts two Fridays ago when he was restrained from barrier six and finished powerfully from fifth at the bell to easily beat the pacemaker Mighty Flying Deal at a 1.55.2 rate over 1730m.

Champion reinsman Chris Lewis will be looking to the consistent Our Corelli to give him his eighth success in the Stratton Cup, after victories with Black Irish (1983), Village Kid (1985, 1988 and 1991), Ohoka Ace (2005), Sneakyn Down Under (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2014). Our Corelli is favourably drawn at barrier two on the back line and should race in a commanding position.

Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr has three runners in this week’s Cup King of Swing (Stuart McDonald, barrier three), Overboard Again (Corey Peterson, barrier four) and Speed Man (Lauren Jones, barrier seven). King of Swing has solid each-way claims and certainly is capable of giving Hall another Stratton Cup victory after scoring with Bengeeman (2002), Alzona (2011) and Waylade (2015).

Gary Hall Jnr drove those three pacers for their Stratton Cup wins, but he will be absent from Gloucester Park on Friday night. He will be in Hobart where he and Ryan Warwick will represent Western Australia in the Australian Drivers’ Championship on Saturday night.

Mt Helena trainer Ray Williams has two smart pacers in Major Pocket and Walkinshaw engaged in Friday night’s Cup. Aldo Cortopassi will drive the speedy Major Pocket from barrier two, and Aiden de Campo has been engaged for Walkinshaw, who will be at liberal odds from out wide at barrier No. 9.