Ken Casellas | Hamilton Content Creators
There promises to be intense competition for spots in the fields for the rich Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups early in the New Year, and several Cup hopefuls will clash in the $30,000 Better Your Bet With TABtouch RWWA Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Highly promising four-year-olds Major Martini, Minstrel, Patronus Star and Hampton Banner will be under close scrutiny when they clash with experienced stars Galactic Star, Hurricane Harley, Bletchley Park and Motu Premier as well as the inexperienced but exciting prospect Wildwest.
Champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr has given punters an important lead by opting to drive Major Martini in preference to Wildwest and Hurricane Harley.
This race will be an acid test for Major Martini, who is prepared at Boyanup by Justin Prentice, who also trains speedy frontrunner Hurricane Harley, who is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line of the 2130m event and will be driven by Maddison Brown.
Major Martini, a winner at eight of his 16 starts, will begin from the No. 2 barrier on the back line, and Hall will be hoping to manoeuvre the gelding into a forward position soon after the start.
This will be Major Martini’s third appearance after a 19-month absence, during which time he recovered from a bruised pedal bone in his nearside front leg. He has been given a thorough preparation by Prentice and has not been extended in the two events he has contested in his current campaign.
He had the luxury of being able to stroll straight to the front and then set a slow pace before sprinting home brilliantly to win easily. At his first start after a spell, he sprinted over the final 400m sections in 27.4sec. and 28.1sec. and beat Euphoria by two lengths. Then last Friday week he sizzled home with a 26.3sec. final quarter to beaty stablemate Gambit by a length.
Major Martini certainly has the class to figure prominently at his first outing against open-class company. As a two-year-old he won two group 1 features, the Sales Classic and Westbred Classic for colts and geldings, before finishing a head second to Jaspervellabeach in the Golden Slipper.
Then, as a three-year-old he was successful in two group 2 features, the Sales Classic and the Western Gateway Pace, before finishing second, a neck behind Patronus Star in the WA Derby in April 2020.
Hurricane Harley disappointed when he raced in the breeze and wilted to finish last behind Bletchley Park in the 2130m RWWA Cup last Friday week — after he had scored dashing victories in the Mount Eden Sprint and Howard Porter Memorial at his two previous starts.
He races at his best when he is able to lead, but whether he will be able to cross the polemarker Wildwest in the early stages is problematic. Wildwest notched his eleventh victory from 20 starts when he enjoyed the one-out, one-back trail before finishing powerfully to beat the pacemaker Hampton Banner over 2130m last Friday night. The New Zealand-bred gelding, trained by Gary Hall snr, will be driven by Callan Suvaljko.
Hall will also be represented by five-year-old Diego, who will be handled by Aiden de Campo and will be at handsome odds from the outside of the back line.
Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond hold a strong hand in Friday night’s event in which they will be represented by Galactic Star, a veteran of 32 wins from 100 starts, Patronus Star, a winner at 13 of his 29 starts, and Minstrel, who has had 24 starts for 13 wins.
Deni Roberts will be in the sulky behind the eight-year-old Galactic Star, who is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier. He finished strongly to win from his brilliant stablemate Mighty Conqueror two starts ago.
Dylan Egerton-Green will drive Patronus Star (barrier seven) and Ryan Warwick will handle Minstrel barrier eight). Both talented pacers will be racing first-up, but each is capable of a bold showing.
Hampton Banner (Chris Lewis) and the Stephen Reed-trained Bletchley Park (Lindsay Harper) are racing in excellent form, while Ross Olivieri’s eight-year-old Motu Premier (Emily Suvaljko) impressed with his fast-finishing first-up third behind Bletchley Park last Friday week.