Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Rank outsider Wildwest achieved the impossible when he came from a seemingly hopeless position, locked away in tenth place at the bell, five back on the pegs, to snatch a dramatic last-stride victory in the $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Aided by a miracle succession of inside runs in the final circuit, Wildwest, the $99.50 outsider, surged through along the inside to get up and win the group 1 2936m Cup by a half-head from Miracle Moose ($8.50), with indestructible nine-year-old champion Chicago Bull, the $3.90 favourite, a further half-head away in third place.
This gave 47-year-old reinsman Callan Suvaljko his first Pacing Cup success and his third group 1 victory in a fine career of 1219 wins — and it continued the absolutely remarkable performance of 72-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall snr, who chalked up a record twelfth victory in the WA Pacing Cup and his 44TH group 1 success in a glittering career of 2956 victories.
Wildwest, a New Zealand-bred six-year-old, has proved to be a most difficult pacer in his three years in Western Australia, having trouble in negotiating his way around the 804m Gloucester Park circuit. But there has never been any doubt about his raw ability, and his great potential.
He has been extremely lightly raced, and now boasts an imposing record of 28 starts for 13 wins, four placings and stakes of $466,290.
His future will be in Sydney where it is hoped that, under the care of trainer Belinda McCarthy, he will be far better suited at racing on the spacious 1400m Menangle track, with his immediate mission the $1 million Miracle Mile on March 3.
Wildwest and seven-year-old stablemate Caviar Star, winner of the Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park in January 2020, are booked to leave Perth by float to Sydney on Monday February 14.
Hall purchased Wildwest for $150,000 on behalf of several stable clients after he was most impressed when he watched the three-year-old, on debut, score a runaway 12-length victory in a 2400m stand at Winton in May 2019. He dashed over the final 800m in 57sec. and the last 400m in 26.3sec.
That was Wildwest’s only appearance in New Zealand. He is by the New Zealand stallion Raging Bull and is the first foal out of the unraced Jeremes Jet mare Bay Jet.
“This was a bittersweet result,” said Hall after a big festive crowd had cheered itself hoarse as they watched one of the most spectacular finishes in the 110-year history of the Cup, with only one and a half lengths separating the first eight runners.
“I am happy for Callan and the connections of Wildwest, who has been a real problem to train. He doesn’t like this track; he hangs down and has trouble in getting around the track.
“He needs the rails, and he got the rails tonight, and all the horses ahead of him came off the inside in the last lap. I thought Chicago Bull had it, all the way up the straight. He is an amazing little horse, and I’m still in admiration about his performance tonight. He was phenomenal.”
Mighty Conqueror, a $9 chance, led from the No. 2 barrier, with Balcatherine ($26) in the breeze early and the polemarker Miracle Moose behind the pacemaker, and Chicago Bull settling in the one-out, one-back position after starting from barrier two on the back line.
The early pace was dawdling, and Gary Hall jnr made a decisive move after a lap to switch Chicago Bull three wide and dash forward into the breeze.
After opening quarters of the final mile in 30sec. and 29.5sec. Fremantle Cup winner Minstrel ($6) started a three-wide move 1000m from home to be fourth at the bell, with stablemate Patronus Star ($5.50) following him.
The tempo was then lifted dramatically, and the third 400m section whizzed by in 27.5sec., with Hall sending Chicago Bull to the front 550m from home, as Magnificent Storm ($5.50) looming out wide as a danger.
Chicago Bull rounded the home turn in front and was holding his challengers at bay. Miracle Moose, who was blocked for a clear run until the turn, surged home, three wide, and took a very narrow lead in the final two strides before Wildwest flew home on the inside to gain the verdict by the narrowest of margins.
Chicago Bull was extremely gallant in defeat. He now has contested four WA Pacing Cups for a win in January 2017, a second to Soho Tribeca in January 2018 and a second to Vultan Tin in December 2020 before his third on Friday night. He has performed in magnificent fashion in all four Cups in which he raced in the breeze in all of them.
Callan Suvaljko’s victory deprived his niece Emily (21) of the distinction of winning the big race with her first drive in the Cup — and the honour of being the first female driver to win the prestigious event, which was won by her father Shannon when he drove Vanlo Yorker to victory in 2008.
Callan Suvaljko said he gave Wildwest little chance of winning from the wide barrier at No. 7. “I thought I could be the first to the fence and lob behind Miracle Moose,” he said. “Things didn’t work out like I had hoped and Wildwest finished five back on the pegs.
“But in the last lap horses in front of me started coming off the fence, and I just kept taking the runs (along the inside). I got up behind Chicago Bull on the turn and was actually travelling pretty good, and Bully kept going up the track, so we ducked to the inside and were checked a couple of times in the straight. When the gap fully came Wildwest motored through.”
The pacemaker Mighty Conqueror, after being passed by Chicago Bull at the 550m, was still second when he met with a check and broke into a gallop about 50m from the post.
The inexperienced but highly talented Magnificent Storm put up a splendid performance in finishing strongly, out very wide, to finish fourth, while Minstrel was only narrowly beaten in finishing fifth.
Callan Suvaljko’s only previous group 1 successes came in the space of 65 minutes at Gloucester Park on April 24, 2015, when he won the $100,000 Sales Classics for two-year-olds with filly Bettor Bling and gelding Rocknroll Whitby.
Four of the part-owners of Wildwest also are part-owners of King Of Swing, who gave a strong frontrunning display to win the $500,000 A. G. Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday night.