Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Four-year-old Alta Engen is, by far, the least experienced runner in the Allwood Stud Sires, Stallions of Today and the Future Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night, but ace trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo is confident the powerful gelding has the speed and strength to overcome the serious challenge from his race-hardened rivals.
“Races in his class have not been holding up, so I have had to put him up in grade,” said de Campo. “And I believe he has the ability to match it with the better-performed horses in the race.
“He’s got the right gate (barrier one) and he loves to lead. He is ready to run a good race.”
Alta Engen, who has won at 11 of his 22 starts, had a tough run last Friday night when he started from the outside barrier in a field of nine, went three wide for the first 300m and then raced in the breeze with Whatabro setting a solid pace before taking a narrow lead 250m from home and wilting to finish third behind Walsh and Shadow Roll.
“I thought at the 400m that he was going to win quite easily, but he knocked up a bit over the final 150m,” de Campo said. “However, I was quite happy with the run, which was his first full race for a month, taking into account that he met with interference and had to be retired from a race at Pinjarra 11 days earlier.
“I’m now backing him up after last week’s run, and he should be a bit fitter and a bit sharper.”
Alta Engen’s six opponents have been racing very well in stronger company, and they are capable of testing him in the 2130m event. Champion trainer Gary Hall snr prepares Alta Intrigue (barrier three) and Ideal Liner (barrier six), Nathan Turvey will be represented by Blue Blazer (two) and Miracle Moose (five), while Matt Scott is pinning his faith on Rock Me Over (four) and Michael Brennan trains Whatabro, who will start from the outside barrier.
Gary Hall jnr will handle Alta Intrigue, and Callan Suvaljko will drive Ideal Liner.
“Ideal Liner is going better than his form might indicate,” said Hall jnr. “Alta Intrigue is first-up off a let-up and I will be planning to go to the rails and drive him quietly.”
Emily Suvaljko has chosen to drive Miracle Moose in preference to Blue Blazer, who will be handled by champion driver Chris Lewis. “Blue Blazer should get an ideal run behind Alta Engen,” said Suvaljko. “Miracle Moose was probably a little bit disappointing at in Free For All grade last Friday night (when a fading eighth behind Magnificent Storm in the Navy Cup), but he needed the run, and it is hard chasing those good ones in the moving line.”
Whatabro’s form is hard to fault, but he looks tested in stronger company from the outside barrier, while Rock Me Over has resumed after a spell in good form with thirds behind Wainui Creek and Howard Hughes.