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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Evergreen seven-year-old Vampiro continues to race with refreshing enthusiasm, and he has bright prospects of winning the $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup for the second time when he starts from the prized No. 1 barrier in the group 2 feature event over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The New Zealand-bred gelding, prepared by champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond, was a $17.20 chance when he started from barrier six and raced in the one-out, one-back position before he finished strongly to win by a head from stablemate and $2.50 favourite El Jacko in the 2019 Stratton Cup.

There have been only five multiple winners of the Stratton Cup — Plunderer (1948 and 1950), Village Kid (1985, 1988, 1991), Just Packapunch (1993, 1995), Shattering Class (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) and Chicago Bull (2018, 2020) — since the event was first run in 1935 when Nelson Pronto won from All Charm and Chic.

Vampiro, who will be driven by Ryan Warwick, has impressed in his current campaign, with his past seven starts producing two wins, two seconds, two thirds and a last-start fifth behind Magnificent Storm in the 2130m Navy Cup last Friday week when he worked hard for the first 500m before taking the lead, setting a fast pace and wilting over the final 250m.

Six days before that Vampiro led early and then sat behind Magnificent Storm before finishing powerfully to be a head second to that star pacer in the 2536m James Brennan Memorial.

Gary Hall jnr has given punters a valuable lead by choosing to drive the Justin Prentice-trained Hurricane Harley in preference to Texas Tiger and Alta Intrigue, who are trained by Gary Hall snr.

Five-year-old Hurricane Harley is poorly drawn on the outside barrier (No. 8) on the front line for his first appearance in Western Australia. This will be his first run since he finished a fading seventh behind the brilliant Lochinvar Art in the group 1 Vicbred Super Series for four-year-old entires and geldings over 2240m at Melton on December 31 last year.

He began fast from barrier five, but was unable to cross the polemarker Lochinvar Art, and raced without cover for the first 650m before gaining the one-out, one-back trail. He wilted in the home straight, and soon after that performance he was affected by a sore hind leg.

Hurricane Harley showed his class in winning in fast time at two of his three previous starts — leading and scoring by a neck from Lochinvar Art, rating 1.51.4 over 2240m at Melton, with final quarters of 28.2sec., 27.4sec., 27.4sec. and 27.9sec., leading from barrier two and winning by three lengths from Western Sonador, rating 1.54.2 over 2150m at Bendigo, with final quarters of 29.8sec., 29.7sec., 26.7sec. and 27.4sec.

Hurricane Harley was most impressive in winning a four-horse 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Wednesday of last week when he flew out from behind the mobile and immediately opened up a lead of eight lengths over his rivals Has No Fear, Suing You and Savvy Bromac. After opening quarters of 30.6sec. and 30.1sec. he sprinted over the final two 400m sections in 28sec. and 27.2sec. and won by just under seven lengths from Savvy Bromac, rating 1.55.

This week’s Cup will mark the return to racing of brilliant four-year-old Texas Tiger, who has won in dashing style at his first eight starts in WA when he has revealed sparkling gate speed. He has not appeared since he set the pace and won from Stroke Of Luck and Vultan Tin in a 2130m Free For All at Gloucester Park on April 2 this year when he dashed over the final 800m in 55.2sec. and rated 1.55.8.

Texas Tiger will be driven by Callan Suvaljko from barrier No. 5, and Hall snr said: “I’m pleased with his work. He is probably a bit underdone, but he will go well. Vampiro will taking catching.”

Alta Intrigue will start from barrier two and will be handled by Deni Roberts. He ran home strongly when a half-head second to Alta Engen over 2130m last Friday night.

Emily Suvaljko has chosen to drive the Nathan Turvey-trained Blue Blazer in preference to the Kiara Davies-trained Medieval Man, who will be handled by Maddison Brown.     

Chris Voak has opted to drive Star Of Diamonds ahead of Perfect Major, who will be driven by Chris Lewis. Star Of Diamonds has finished second at her four starts in her current preparation and is the only runner off the back line and she should enjoy an ideal passage behind Vampiro.