13 June 2019
by Tim Walker
On paper, this year's Group 1 TABtouch-2YO Pearl Classic (2130m) may lack depth, but the four runners at the top of the market are sure to make it an intriguing race.
Aristocratic Star (barrier two), Jaxon Jones (four), Valentines Brook (seven) and Manning (10) loom as the main fancies for the $100,000 event.
The field for the Pearl Classic was reduced by one earlier this week, when trainer Justin Prentice elected against accepting with Major Martini.
Prentice still has two of the four fancied runners in Aristocratic Star and Manning and has proven himself as the trainer to watch in the two-year-old ranks, having trained the winning quinella in the colts and geldings Sales Classic in March.
Jaxon Jones defeated Valentines Brook and Aristocratic Star in the second of the two Pearl heats last Tuesday, while Manning defeated Disco Bolt and Major Martini in the opening heat.
Gary Hall Jnr, looking for his fourth Pearl Classic, teams up with Aristocratic Star in this week's edition and said he was looking forward to being able to settle the pacer on speed.
"We haven't drawn where we can use him off the gate yet," he said.
"This looks like a draw where we are going to have to."
Hall Jnr said he was concerned by some of Aristocratic Star's racing manners in the heat, which made finding the front all the more critical.
"In the heat we had all sorts of problems," he said.
"He got keen, he got a bit of interference getting into the back of the cart of the horse in front and he got himself all wound up.
"I think if we could get to the front and let him run his own race it will give us a good chance of winning."
Jaxon Jones emerged as a contender for the Pearl with two wins at Bunbury during the autumn, before two sound performances at Gloucester Park, headlined by the heat win.
Dylan Egerton-Green teams up in the sulky with Jaxon Jones, a winner at three of five starts, and said he expected another bold performance this week.
"He went really good in his heat.
"He's probably better off up there, because the two fourths that he's run he's been off the pace.
"The one of Justin's that has drawn inside us is probably the one to beat.
"I still give our bloke a real top three chance.
"If he gets it his right way, I can see him winning."
Manning will carry the hopes of a large group of owners in the Pacing WA syndicate when he lines up in the Pearl.
The Sportswriter gelding bounced back to his best form in the heat with a commanding 22.5m win.
Prior to that, Manning went three starts without a win, albeit one of those winless starts was a credible second placing in the Sales Classic.
Chris Lewis takes the steer on Manning and will also be looking for his fifth success in the race.
Lewis' most recent success in the race was with boom pacer Jack Mac in 2017.
Manning will be the sole runner from the second row in the feature event and Lewis felt the draw would be to the gelding's liking.
Tenacious George and Disco Bolt loom as the pick of the rest of the runners in the race from barrier five and nine respectively.