By David Gilbert
IT is always heartwarming to see a talented galloper return to the track following a setback and find top form again.
Such is the case with the Sue Murphy trained Hasta La War who regained that winning formula at Morphettville Parks last Saturday.
It was only 20 months ago – in February last year – when Hasta La War was at the top of his game and was the early favourite for the Adelaide Cup the following month.
From October, 2019 until January 2020, Hasta La War won four successive races, the latter three in Adelaide, before a fast-finishing second – beaten an eyelash – in the Birthday Cup at Morphettville in February, regarded as a lead-up race for the Adelaide Cup.
That is when everything went pear shaped, with Hasta La War sidelined through injury and unable to take his place in the Adelaide Cup field.
He was off the scene for over 12 months with injuries and setbacks before resuming in the autumn of this year for three unplaced efforts.
That is when there were lingering doubts as to whether we could ever see Hasta La War regain the form which captured the public’s imagination with his long, sustained finishing bursts.
He returned to racing in August and was unplaced in two runs over unsuitable distances, including a seventh in the Balaklava Cup last month.
But, the signs were there that Hasta La War may be about to show his best and the six-year-old gelding was heavily backed ($5-$3.60) when he stepped up to 2250 metres in a BM 76 race last Saturday in Adelaide.
When he loomed into the race at the 500 metres, those who backed Hasta La War wished they could at least double their investment, so well was he travelling for apprentice Teaghan Voorham who had ridden him in all six previous victories.
Over the final 300 metres, the old Hasta La War was there for all to see, storming down the outside to win running away by three lengths.
“We all got very emotional at his performance,” Murphy confided earlier this week.
“He had been nominated for the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley last Friday night but, with the hassles of getting him to Melbourne in these Covid times, we took the easier option and went to Adelaide.
“The long-term plan last year was to aim him for the Melbourne Cup and that is now the current plan.”
Hasta La War is an 82 rated horse in Victoria and the best way for Murphy to be assured of getting a run in the Melbourne Cup is to win one of two upcoming qualifying races.
The winners of the $750,000 Bart Cummings (2500 metres) at Flemington tomorrow and the Geelong Cup (October 20) get automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November.
Tomorrow at Flemington, Linda Meech is listed to ride Hasta La War from barrier seven but the bad news is Hasta La War is the third emergency and will need plenty of luck to gain a start.
Murphy has already done her homework as to how to get her stable star to Flemington, if needed, tomorrow.
“Luckily, Hasta La War is a good traveller and I will meet Barry Erhart at the border who will take him to Horsham where he will be taken to Flemington by Horsham trainer Paul Preusker who has runners at Flemington,” she said.
The timing for Murphy to get a start in the Melbourne Cup has never been better as there are less than a handful of overseas stayers heading down under this year for the race.
“As I said to Ronnie (part owner Ron Brighton), it’s worth having a crack at a start in the Melbourne Cup but, if he does not qualify, there are plenty of other cups run during the spring,” she said.
Should Hasta La War qualify for the Melbourne Cup, it is believed he will be the first South East trained galloper to ever run in our iconic event.
Something for us all to wish and hope for.
Current fixed odds have Hasta Law War as a 200/1 chance to win the Melbourne Cup, and 50/1 for the place.
SAT WIDE AND STILL WON
NARACOORTE trainer Greg Scholefield has always had a good opinion of his pacer Stratofortress.
His faith has been vindicated with the four year old being a model of consistency this campaign with two wins and three placings from six starts.
Stratofortress put up the run of his career for his latest win last Saturday night at Globe Derby Park in Adelaide.
Despite being stuck three wide for most of the 1800 metre journey in the NR 50-59 pace, Stratofortress ($2.40 fav.) still proved much too good for his opponents with a winning margin of 5.7 metres.
There was an omen for punters to have a bet at Globe Derby Park last Monday.
Local trainer Alyce Finnis and husband/driver Jayson rarely take a pacer to Adelaide to race on a Monday afternoon.
Ever Hoping was returning to racing from a six-month spell and had shown enough in a recent trial here to suggest he would be hard to beat.
Monday Globe Derby Park meetings are never star-studded programs, yet there was no money late in betting to suggest the lightly-raced Ever Hoping was a good thing.
The youngster was given every possible chance from the outside of the second row by Jayson Finnis and Ever Hoping ($4.40-$6) raced clear in the concluding stages to win by seven metres.
QUALIFIED FOR JERICHO CUP START
THE Jericho Cup fixture at Warrnambool in late November has become one of that club’s flagship meetings.
It is Australia’s longest flat race (4600 metres) and is run on the famous Warrnambool steeplechase course.
Heats are run in both Australia and New Zealand, and Naracoorte hosted such a heat last Sunday.
Victoria’s number one stable, the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace combination, even sent a horse over to compete in the race and engaged Adelaide jockey Barend Vorster for the one ride at Naracoorte.
For the second time in September, the Mount Gambier stable of Bob and Kane Post did most quadrella punters a disservice by providing a winner, this time at 80/1.
They did it at Penola in early September with the outsider Ali Orphan and this time it was the nine-year-old mare Zabextra who put up an amazing performance at only her second run from a two-month spell.
Just for good measure, the stable also provided the quinella in the race with Fast Foils.
The win means that Zabextra has already qualified for the Jericho Cup to be run on Sunday, November 28.
A cool and confident Kate Walters ride paid off when Zabextra sprinted quickly near the 400-metre mark before going on to win by four lengths.
“She took a bit of pulling up after the race and continued on to the 1000-metre mark,” Kane Post stated.
“Being by a staying stallion, it is in their makeup to race well over a lot of distance and she will have another couple of runs before the Jericho Cup.”
Zabextra was formerly trained by Wayne Walters and, according to Post, Walters is still heavily involved with the stable.
“We have around 50 horses on the books and Wayne is a big part of a real team effort along with Kate (Walters), Libby Halliday, Fiona Walters and my father Bob.”
Naracoorte trainer Sue Murphy took training honours on the day with a double, including a win by the evergreen Pewter in the opening race which she partly sponsored.