Up-and-coming star Shockwave has been placed behind superstar pacer Chicago Bull at his past five starts and Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell is firm in his belief that Shockwave, at his first appearance for seven months, is fit and ready to turn the tables when the equine gladiators clash in the $25,000 Winter Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Shockwave has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier in the 2536m Cup in which Chicago Bull, at his fifth appearance after a spell, will start from the No. 6 barrier.
Not only has Chicago Bull a psychological and statistical advantage over Shockwave, but Bell faces the serious task of dethroning champion trainer Gary Hall Snr who has the remarkable record of winning the Winter Cup a record ten times with Kaydee (1994), The Falcon Strike (2003), Iontheball (2006), Washakie (2008), Im Themightyquinn (2009 and 2013), Davy Maguire (2012), Machtu (2015), Run Oneover (2016) and Tact Major (2019).
Hall went within a breath of winning the Winter Cup 12 months ago when Chicago Bull, the $2.15 favourite, came from sixth and last at the bell with a strong three-wide burst to get to the front 100m from the post only to be beaten in the final stride by a nose by the fast-finishing Ocean Ridge.
Shockwave will be driven for the first time by Michael Grantham, who replaces Aiden de Campo, who is serving a brief term of suspension. Shockwave has not raced since he bled from both nostrils after finishing third behind Chicago Bull and Galactic Star in the 2536m Fremantle Cup last November.
He finished second behind Chicago Bull at his four previous starts in the Stratton Cup, Mount Eden Sprint, Howard Porter Memorial and Pat Cranley Memorial.
Shockwave has had a long, steady preparation and he has warmed up in fine style with impressive trial wins at Pinjarra and Byford earlier this month.
“His two trials have been perfect hit-outs,” said Bell. “I drove him at Byford last Sunday morning when we just sat back (four back on the pegs in an Indian file affair) before taking off with a lap to go, and his last half was pretty solid when he had quarters of 26.7sec. and 27.3sec.
“Racing first-up over 2536m is no problem; he’s done it before. He is probably more forward than he has been in previous preparations. Regarding his bleeding in the Fremantle Cup (when he received an automatic three-month ban) we are pretty confident it was viral related. The whole stable was crook at that time.”
Bell said that he had no specific first-up expectations from Shockwave, who has defeated Chicago Bull once when he set a fast pace and held on to beat the champion (who had raced in the breeze) by a half head at a 1.55.7 rate in the 2536m Brennan Memorial last September.
“Obviously, the pressure is on Shockwave, drawn one,” he said. “They won’t cross him at the start, but it’s also no the end of the world if he doesn’t lead. He is well and I’m happy with him and am confident I’ve got him spot on to produce the goods. He is certainly capable of beating Chicago Bull, especially the way the barrier draws are. I’m not saying Shockwave is a certainty, but it definitely helps drawing one.”
Star reinsman Gary Hall jnr said he expected a strong effort from the eight-year-old Chicago Bull, who started from the outside barrier and ran home strongly from ninth at the bell to finish third behind Mighty Conqueror and Patronus Star.
“I’m happy with Bully’s run last week, and he continues to get better,” said Hall.
by Ken Casellas