Hall of Fame traineris delighted at the progress being made by lightly-raced four-year-old Benhope Rulz and said the gelding was firmly on track for a start in the $200,000 Golden Nugget next month.
Hall expects Benhope Rulz, the youngest and least experienced runner in the field, to maintain his splendid form by proving too talented for his rivals in the $20,000 Book Your Xmas Function at the Beau Rivage Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Benhope Rulz won for the fifth time from seven starts in his current preparation when he started from barrier five, dashed to the lead after 300m and sprinted over the final sections in 28.5sec. and 28.1sec. to win from stablemate Luis Alberto at a 1.56.8 rate last Friday night.
Within New Zealand, will again be in the sulky behind Benhope Rulz, who is handily drawn at No. 2 on the back line.
“He’s a pretty good horse and only bad luck will beat him this week,” said Hall Snr. “Danieljohn looks the one to beat, and Suspicious Life also has claims.
Hall produced another Nugget hopeful at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening when McDonald drove former Victorian performer Think About Me to victory by a head over Shadow Maker, dashing over the final 400m in 27.8sec. and rating 1.57.4 over 2130m.
“At the moment I have Nugget contenders in Benhope Rulz, Speed Man, King of Swing, Think About Me and another one I haven’t produced,” Hall said.
Mundijong trainer Kristian Hawkins has three runners up against Benhope Rulz in Friday night’s race over 2130m. He will drive veteran Danieljohn from barrier one, Ryan Warwick will handle Bettor Not Bitter (barrier three) and Corey Peterson will be in the sulky behind Runaway Three at barrier five.
“I’ll be desperately disappointed if Danieljohn leads and gets beaten, given the way he is going,” Hawkins said. “He is a much superior horse in front. He is just a freak of a horse who loves being in work. He tries really hard and is always eager to please.”
The ten-year-old Danieljohn certainly looks the leader on Friday night and should take catching. He is still racing enthusiastically after 145 race starts for 34 wins and 44 placings for earnings of $312,379.
Hawkins also has sound prospects on Friday night with several stable runners, including The Trilogy, Dontstopbelievin, Stroganoff and Starlight Brigade.
Dontstopbelievin, a winner at seven of her past ten starts, is poorly drawn at barrier seven in the 2536m Book Your Next Conference at Gloucester Park Pace.
“I know she won well last Friday, but her past two runs haven’t left me as happy as I would have liked,” Hawkins said. “It was just in the manner in which she raced, sort of dour. Now I want to give her one run over 2536m before the classic races come up. After this week’s race she’ll probably have three and a half weeks off until the $125,000Four-Year-Old Classic on December 30.
“That will mean she will miss a couple of $50,000 races, but I think that will be better for her.
“From barrier six on Friday night I’ll probably driver her with a sit, something I haven’t driven her before, apart from the time I butchered it. I daresay my hand probably will be forced on Friday and it will be more of a learning curve on how she will go, sitting up. I’ll probably have one crack at them, whether we go at the bell or at another stage of the race; it depends on the tempo of the race.”
Hawkins said he had good prospects with Stroganoff in race six and Starlight Brigade in the seventh event. Both are favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line.
“I’ll be doing my best to find the front with Stroganoff,” Hawkins said. “When we get serious out of the gate he’s always had plenty of toe. If he finds the front, he’s a big show.
Starlight Brigade should find the front and should go well in his race. At his latest start, at Kellerberrin, he sat in the breeze which is not his go and was just beaten (by a head) by Patrickthepiranha, rating 1.59.3 which was a quicker time than that recorded by The Trilogy in the main race that day.”