Chicago Bull arrives Thursday
By Michael Guerin
Gary Hall is hoping a change of trainer can transform Chicago Bull from a Victoria Cup runner-up to a New Zealand Cup winner.
The pride of Perth arrives in New Zealand on Thursday and is likely to stay a month with the $800,000 Cup at Addington on November 13 his main aim.
Had Chicago Bull won the Victoria Cup at Melton last Saturday he could well have threatened for favouritism in New Zealand’s greatest harness race but he had to settle for a well-beaten second behind Tiger Tara, who is also bound for Addington but will race at Menangle this Saturday first.
Hall’s usually unshakable confidence was initially dented by the Victoria Cup defeat.
“I first glance I thought he was disappointing,” he admits.
“But then when I analyzed it and the lead time was so slow, it was like sitting parked outside Tiger Tara over a mile.
“You are not going to win doing that and obviously we didn’t. But at the top of the straight our fella was all done and he still fought on really well for second.
“So he can still win the New Zealand Cup.”
Not that Hall will have as much input as usual into Chicago Bull’s preparation with his son and regular driver Gary junior taking over the hands-on training for almost all the New Zealand campaign, albeit in an unofficial capacity.
“Gary is going over with him this week and staying right through until after the New Zealand Cup, he won’t be coming back to drive here in Perth.
“Gary actually did most of the training with Quinny (I’m Themightyquinn) when he raced in the Inter Dominion in Auckland in 2011, which we ended up winning after Smoken Up was disqualified.
“So he thinks he is the man for the job so I will only come over a few days before the Cup,” laughs Hall.
Chicago Bull flies into Auckland in the hope the Auckland Trotting Club will hold the programmed open class race at Alexandra Park next Friday as his final lead-up to the Cup.
With Star Galleria already in the south and Northview Hustler and No Doctor Needed nominated for the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday the northern open class stocks will be getting pretty thin by next week.
But Let’s Elope and Jacks Legend, who quinellaed last Friday’s Holmes D G, are likely to accept for next Friday along with a few others and the Auckland Trotting Club have been keen to support pre-NZ Cup open class racing in recent years so the race should get off the ground.
“That would be ideal for us because he needs the standing start practice, he has never been from one in a race,” says Hall.
“He has had a couple of trials over here from a stand but that is a lot diferent from a race.”
Chicago Bull versus Jacks Legend is very much a spring treat for Alexandra Park regulars as they were both runner-ups to Lazarus at the highest level last season, Jacks Legend in the New Zealand Cup and Chicago Bull in the Inter Dominion.
The pair staying in the north for their final lead-up races also adds to the intrigue of an already fascinating New Zealand Cup, which in recent years has seen most of the top chances race each other and establish a clear pecking order before they get to Addington.
That won’t be the case this season because while some of the Cup favourites like Ultimate Machete and Dream About Me will head to Ashburton on Monday others like Star Galleria and Methven Cup winner Cruz Bromac will bypass that race, ensuring lots of varying formlines heading into the Cup.