Bull dozers them
NZ HARNESS NEWS
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was a damn impressive one from Chicago Bull, who set Alexandra Park alight on Friday night with a dominant win.
The pint-sized Perth pacer, in town for one race before a New Zealand Cup tilt in Christchurch on November 13, was too fast and too strong for last season’s Cup place-getter Jack’s Legend in a stirring last lap battle.
He had to be at the top of his game to win, running his last mile in 1.56 and last half in 54.1, after an early gallop in his first career standing start set the cat amongst the pigeons.
But usual driver Gary Hall Jnr didn’t panic, allowing the horse to eventually find his feet and tack on to the bunch before putting him to the race 1200 from home.
“I said all week that he wouldn’t blow the start but he blew it,” said Hall post-race.
“I thought he’d get down and might be slow away but he’d still be with the main body.
“But every time he paced and I gave him his head, he went in to a gallop again.”
Hall said it just proved that no manner of standing start practice at home can prepare a horse for race night, but before the race he had an inclination tonight wasn’t quite like others.
“He was a bit agitated before the start and a bit nervous when we got here, which is not like him.
“We’ve done things with him at home to try and get him ready for this, and he’s never done anything to suggest he’d do that.”
So, with the horse obviously fit, the key thing to work on over the next 18 days will be practice behind the tapes.
“We’ll work on that and probably try and get him some stands on the track (at Pukekohe) or something like that.
“We haven’t got hopple shorteners in because he’s never worn them and he’s in a really tight hopple anyway because he’s obviously very small.
“But I’m definitely going to give them a try now.”
Big picture, Hall said the star pacer felt brilliant and has bounced back from a tough run in the Victoria Cup.
“He felt super. I thought in the Victoria Cup he felt a little bit flat but he felt terrific tonight.
“When I got outside Zach (driving Jack’s Legend), I thought if I could sit there and try and hold second it’d be a really good run.
“But down the back he was doing his usual things, feeling really good and I gave him one flick and he put his head in front of that horse. It didn’t really respond and he (Chicago Bull) wanted to go again.”
It’s put him in a great space ahead of the Cup and Hall is ready for the ultimate challenge. Two miles in front of 20,000 people.
“I think he can improve off the run. He’s pretty well.
“In the Victoria Cup I thought he went great but probably how easy he got beat was a bit of a concern.
“But the New Zealand Cup has been his plan all along; the distance will suit him and the track size won’t worry him.”
Hall says Victoria Cup winner Tiger Tara and Ultimate Machete present as the two horses he is most weary of.
“Ultimate Machete is a great horse and Mark (Purdon) will have him right on the day.”
Zachary Butcher was very happy with the performance of Jack’s Legend, believing a slight lack of fitness compared to Chicago Bull told at the end.
“The other horse has been up all Winter and is probably bit more race-hardened than him; tonight was only his third run back.
“He felt really good tonight and his condition just gave out the last 150 metres.”
Asked if he was on track to try and go one better than last year’s New Zealand Cup second placing behind Lazarus, Butcher was very bullish.
“Bloody oath, he’s proven over the two miles and just being a year older it’s taken him an extra run to come to hand.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Chicago Bull will likely to fly to Christchurch on Thursday, with Sunday the back-up day for flights.
He is expected to step out at the Cup Trials at Addington six days before the Cup.