The outstanding father-son combination of Hall of Fame champions Gary Hall Snr and Gary Hall Jnr is poised to create history at Gloucester Park on Friday night by winning the $200,000 Sky Channel WA Derby with Jumpingjackmac, the least experienced runner in the field.
The strong possibility of a Hall triumph emerged when Jumpingjackmac drew the No. 4 barrier in the 2536m group 1 classic, and his arch rival Lavra Joe drew awkwardly on the inside of the back line of three runners.
The Halls have combined to win the WA Derby five times in the past eight years, and a win by the exciting Jumpingjackmac would give Hall Snr a record sixth training success in this classic event for three-year-olds which was first run in 1917 when Freckles rated 3.3.7 in winning from Tiny Tracey and Santa Clause.
The late Fred Kersley snr trained the Derby winner five times, and he holds the Derby record of six wins as a driver. Hall Jnr has won the race five times, a feat also performed by Fred Kersley Jnr and Chris Lewis.
Lewis will drive the Ray Jones-trained Lavra Joe, a magnificent colt with a remarkable record of 18 wins and seven placings from 30 starts. He has won easily at each of his past five appearances (at an average winning margin of three lengths) and his past 15 starts have produced 12 wins, two seconds and one third placing.
Lavra Joe will start behind Sugar Street, a smart in-form pacer to be driven by Chris Voak for owner-trainer Barry Howlett. But Sugar Street is not noted for his gate speed and is unlikely to be able to hold out Justin Prentice’s talented gelding Mighty Ronaldo, who possesses excellent gate speed and is a noted frontrunner who has led three times in races at Gloucester Park for three wins.
Lavra Joe is strong and versatile, and Lewis will be desperate not to be tucked in on the pegs in confined space. He will be looking for the earliest chance to get Lavra Joe off the inside running and then sending the powerful colt forward.
Hall Jnr has driven Jumpingjackmac aggressively in his recent starts and he is likely to make a bold bid for the lead in the early stages with the gelding who has raced only eight times for six wins, a second to Lavra Joe four starts ago and an eighth behind Eldaytona at Gloucester Park at his second race start, last November when he started from the inside of the back line, met with interference and raced at the rear.
Hall Snr, who has won the Derby with Alta Christiano, Beaudiene Boaz, Chicago Bull, King Of Swing and Major Trojan, said that Jumpingjackmac was a lazy pacer who generally does just what he needs to do to win.
“I’ve put the hood on him for his past two starts and he’s been very good,” he said. “The blinkers have sharpened him up and having his first start over 2536m won’t worry him.”
Hall jnr said he was pleased with Jumpingjackmac’s last-to-first victory over Otis and Seeryanfly over 2130m last Friday night was an ideal prelude to this week’s big race. “I don’t think we could be more ready for the clash with Lavra Joe,” he said.
“It is difficult to tell how good he is because he will only do what you ask him to do. He is quite different to Alta Christiano, who felt like a car when you drove him.”
Lavra Joe completed his Derby preparation with an effortless all-the-way victory over Strike Team in the 2569m Country Derby at Bunbury’s Donaldson Park last Saturday night. The powerful colt will start from the inside of the back line the same barrier the Greg and Skye Bond-trained Patronus Star started from when he won the WA Derby 12 months ago.
Dylan Egerton-Green drove an extremely patient race with Patronus Star, who settled down three back on the pegs and had a perfect opportunity to move off the inside in the early stages. But Egerton-Green was quite happy to stay on the pegs with Patronus Star, who was eighth with 550m to travel.
Egerton-Green skilfully manoeuvred Patronus Star into the clear 250m from home and the gelding went three wide on the home turn before finishing strongly to snatch a last-stride victory over Major Martini, who was driven by Hall Jnr for trainer Justin Prentice.
Prentice, who took full advantage of the No. 1 barrier when he drove the Michael Brennan-trained Im Victorious to an all-the-way victory in the 2012 WA Derby, will be keen to repeat the dose when he handles Mighty Ronaldo from the No. 2 barrier on Friday night.
“Mighty Ronaldo didn’t get a crack at them at his latest start (when sixth behind Jumpingjackmac last Friday week),” he said. Indeed, Mighty Ronaldo was hopelessly blocked for a clear run in the final stages and went to the line with plenty in reserve.
At his previous outing Mighty Ronaldo finished strongly from sixth at the bell to be third behind Lavra Joe and Pinny Tiger in the Battle Of Bunbury, and three starts before that Mighty Ronaldo led from the No. 1 barrier and won the $50,000 Sales Classic from Lavra Joe and Give Us A Wave.
Sugar Street is racing keenly for Busselton trainer Barry Howlett and reinsman Chris Voak. He is sure to be prominent throughout and is capable of a bold showing for his trainer who was successful with Three Blind Mice in the 2014 WA Derby.