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Ken Casellas | Photo: Gloucester Park

Valedictorian, a smooth-moving youngster, described by his trainer Justin Prentice as a pacer with a great attitude and a beautiful nature, is poised to set the pace and prove too smart for his nine rivals in the $100,000 APG Sales Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Valedictorian was the fastest of the three heat winners and he has the class to give Prentice his 21ST success in a group 1 feature event as a trainer.

This will be Valedictorian’s second start, following his excellent debut in a qualifying heat on Tuesday of last week when he overcame the disadvantage of starting from the outside barrier (No. 9).

Champion reinsman Gary Hall jnr did not bustle Valedictorian at the start, but when the gelding was out five wide early, and the three runners drawn to his immediate inside were restrained, Hall made a snap decision to revise his tactics and he dashed Valedictorian forward, three wide, to move to the breeze 450m after the start.

Sweet Lucifer was setting the pace and Hall decided not to apply any pressure to the leader, allowing Valedictorian to relax without cover almost two lengths from the pacemaker — until the final circuit when the Art Major colt surged to the front 500m from home and went on to win by 4m from Crowd Control, who ran on solidly from sixth at the bell.

It is not yet known whether Hall will be able to drive Valedictorian in Friday night’s final in which the colt has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier.

Hall has lodged an appeal against a suspension, seeking a two-day remission, which would enable him to take several important drives on Friday night. If his appeal on Thursday is unsuccessful, Prentice is expected to take the drive.

“Valedictorian went very well in his heat,” said Prentice. “He impressed me, and he seems to be improving all the time. He is nice and relaxed, and hopefully he’ll stay that way.”

Twelve months ago, Hall drove the Prentice-trained Tomlous Jambo into second place behind the pacemaker Floewriter in the Sales Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings, and they combined to win the Sales Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings when Mighty Ronaldo beat Lavra Joe by a head.

Prentice trained and drove Major Martini to victory in the 2019 Sales Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings, an event won by Hall jnr with Blissfull Boy (2010), Black Aquila (2011) and Allmightyjoelouis (2016).

One of Valedictorian’s toughest opponents on Friday night is likely to be Star Lavra, a big, well-muscled colt who will be driven by Maddison Brown for trainer Gary Hall snr from out wide at barrier No. 8.

Star Lavra impressed at his debut when he raced in the breeze and finished second to the pacemaker Juggernaut in a qualifying heat on Tuesday of last week.

Juggernaut, prepared by Katja Warwick, is handily drawn at barrier three and will be driven by Chris Lewis, who has won this event seven times — with The Vigilante (1995), Saab (1997), Talladega (1999), On Line Brut (2000), Wirrpunda (2001), Lombo Wave Link (2005) and Mister Jadore (2013).

Rocket City, trained and driven by Dylan Egerton-Green, set the pace and won a qualifying heat by more than four lengths. That followed his fighting victory over Sweet Lucifer at Gloucester Park a fortnight earlier. Rocket City will start from the No. 5 barrier.