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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Champion pacer Chicago Bull will turn nine on Saturday, but he still retains his wonderful competitive spirit and is well and truly on target to play a significant role in the rich Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups in the New Year.

He will have his final start as an eight-year-old when he begins out wide at barrier six in the 2536m Retravision Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night and judged by his wonderful first-up performance when fifth behind Wildwest in a fast-run 1730m event last Friday week he should fight out the finish.

His fifth placing extended his losing sequence to six — the longest losing run in his glittering 98-start career. He was restrained from barrier No. 8 and was eighth at the bell before charging home, out six wide, leaving his trainer Gary Hall snr smiling contentedly and declaring that his eye-catching effort at his first appearance for six months was full of merit.

“He showed that he’s well and truly on track to run in the Cups,” he said. “He will keep on improving.” Star reinsman Gary Hall jnr was equally enthusiastic, saying: “I wouldn’t swap him with any other horse as my drive in the Cups.”

Chicago Bull’s appearance in Friday night’s race in a star-studded field is sure to provide an abundance of fireworks. A winner of 61 races and $2,331,683 in prizemoney, he will meet with plenty opposition from an array of stars, including Magnificent Storm, Rocknroll Lincoln, Hampton Banner, Vultan Tin, Vampiro and Galactic Star.

Between them, the nine runners have won 224 races and $6,142,748 in stakes.

Four-year-olds Magnificent Storm and Hampton Banner are newcomers to open-class racing, and each is sure to make a bold bid for victory.

Magnificent Storm, to be driven by Aldo Cortopassi for trainer Ray Williams, has an initial advantage over Chicago Bull by starting from barrier five. A winner of 18 races from 22 starts, Magnificent Storm also gave an outstanding performance in the 1730m event last Friday week when he began from the outside barrier (No. 9), raced at the rear and was still last in the field of ten on the home turn before sprinting brilliantly, out seven wide, to finish fourth, one length behind the winner.

A week earlier, Magnificent Storm had a tough run in the breeze for most of the way when a fighting third behind the pacemaker Balcatherine in the 2130m group 2 City of Perth Cup.

The Debra Lewis-trained Hampton Banner is blessed with sparkling gate speed, and Chris Lewis is sure to take advantage of the gelding’s favourable barrier No. 2 by attempting to outpace the polemarker Rocknroll Lincoln in a bid for the early lead.

Hampton Banner began speedily from barrier six in a 2130m event last Friday night but was unable to cross the polemarker Perfect Major. He then enjoyed an ideal passage behind Perfect Major before finishing fourth behind Minstrel.

Rocknroll Lincoln, trained by Justin Prentice, reappeared after a two-year injury-enforced absence when he finished tenth in the field of ten behind Wildwest over 1730m last Friday week. He trailed the pacemaker Wildwest and ran on, three wide, to finish just over two lengths behind the winner. It was a solid performance, and he is sure to be improved by the run. With Hall committed to drive Chicago Bull, Prentice will drive Rocknroll Lincoln.

Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond will be represented by veterans Vampiro (barrier three) and Galactic Star (barrier seven). Seven-year-old Vampiro will be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green at his first appearance fore eleven weeks. Ryan Warwick will drive eight-year-old Galactic Star, who faces a tough task from his awkward draw.