Daily News Wrap

11 min read

Horror gate for talented colt

Smart first-up winner Microphone (Exceed And Excel) will have to come from the outside barrier draw if he is to retain his perfect record when he steps out in the Listed Blue Diamond Preview at Caulfield.

The Godolphin-owned colt has come up with gate 13 for Saturday's 1000 metre race, one of two Blue Diamond Previews on the programme along with the Group 3 fillies’ Preview.

Microphone beat the filly Pretty Brazen (Brazen Beau) in a straight-track race at Flemington on debut.

Microphone at Flemington

I Am Immortal (I Am Invincible), one of eight first-starters in the field, won a recent Pakenham barrier trial in which the Phillip Stokes-trained Brazen Brando (Brazen Beau) was third.

Stokes has entered Brazen Brando for Saturday's Preview with the colt set to jump from one gate inside Microphone in barrier 12 having had two barrier trials this preparation to ready him for a debut test.

He was a close second in a 1000 metre Morphettville trial early this month before his third in a 900 metre heat at Pakenham on January 15 behind I Am Immortal.

“It's a tough race. Brazen Brando has had two trials (this preparation) and I thought his first one was better than his second trial,” Stokes said.

“In saying that, it was the quickest trial of the morning and we probably rode him a bit too close. I think ridden a bit quieter he could show a better turn of foot.

“He worked well on Tuesday morning. I like the horse, but I'd say he would be an each-way chance.”

The fillies Preview has a capacity field of 16 with the Peter and Paul Snowden training partnership to have a strong hand with G3 Gimcrack Stakes winner Catch Me (I Am Invincible) the early favourite ahead of her Victory Vein Plate-winning stablemate Anaheed (Fastnet Rock).

White out at Moe

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Grand Bernini (NZ) posted his maiden success at Moe on Wednesday in a style nearly as eye-catching as his colour.

The white son of Shamexpress (NZ) disappointed on debut when well beaten at Bairnsdale last month.

However, he more than made up for that performance at Moe on Wednesday, winning his 1014 metre contest by five lengths.

“Being a small field we got away well and it was important to get him into a good rhythm. He had a few gear changes, which also helped him,” jockey Jye McNeil said.

“Hopefully he can mature and go on through the grades.”

Stable representative Mark Larker was happy with the run and said Grand Bernini’s trainers have taken a patient approach with their showy runner.

“The horse has got ability, he has put together some really nice gallops at Sandown,” Larker said.

“He’s still learning his craft and when he does gallop properly at Sandown he gallops beautifully.”

“Ciaron and David have been patient with him and I think that is the key going forward.”

Grand Bernini was purchased by Ciaron Maher in partnership with the China Horse Club for $510,000 out of Windsor Park Stud’s 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft.

Trainer fancies Cup chances

Shogun Sun (Written Tycoon) is expected to give a bold account of himself in Saturday’s Sunshine Coast Cup.

The 4-year-old has shown he is up to strong company with a fourth placing in the Buffering Plate and a third in the Magic Millions Cup at his past two starts.

The gelding has also made his mark in Sydney, winning at Randwick last season and finishing second on the same track in August.

Trainer Kelly Schweida has held a good opinion of Shogun Sun, but he admits the gelding's first up run had him a little worried.

Shogun Gun ran last in a Class 6 at Doomben on resuming in mid-December.

“He'd had a longer break than normal after his last Sydney run and was a bit bigger than normal. but he has taken a bit longer to come up,” he said.

“At his next start he was unlucky in the Buffering and then he was good at the Gold Coast.

“Shogun Sun usually races well at the Sunshine Coast and 1400 metres suits him.

“He's had two trials and he runs now so he should be hard to beat.”

Mark Du Plessis will ride Shogun Sun and will also be on Schweida's veteran stayer Outraged (Choisir) in one of only a few 2400 metre races run at metropolitan meetings in Queensland.

“He won it last year off a similar preparation, but he isn't getting any younger,” Schweida said.

“Mark has really settled in well here and is doing a lot of riding for me.”

Alligator for the Coast

Alligator Blood (All Too Hard) will be David Vandyke’s sole representative in the 2YO Classic Plate at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.

He had also nominated his other G1 Golden Slipper S. hopeful Iamican (I Am Invincible), but will now run that filly at Eagle Farm seven days later.

Alligator Blood was an impressive debut winner at the Sunshine Coast when he charged home from near last.

“They are two really nice horses but different types. I think Alligator Blood will eventually get 1600 metres,” Vandyke said.

“But he will have about $80,000 in prize money if he wins on Saturday, which would be a good basis to head south.”

Alligator Blood has had a Sunshine Coast barrier trial since his win and ran third to Iamican.

“Iamican is by I Am Invincible and cost $475,000 at the Magic Millions, the most expensive horse I have ever bought,” Vandyke said.

“I suppose it was a bit of a giveaway when Ryan Maloney drove up from the Gold Coast to ride her in the trial.

“She shows promise, but I want to start her off at 1000 metres and the Eagle Farm race next week suits.”

Telegraph form encouraging

The outcome of the G1 Telegraph has boosted Claire Anderton’s confidence levels with The Precious One (NZ) (Darci Brahma {NZ}) ahead of Saturday’s Listed Speight’s Timaru S. at Riccarton.

Her 4-year-old finished runner-up to Sensei (Dream Ahead {USA}) last time out in the Listed Hazlett S., with three of the runners in that race placing in the Telegraph.

“She has done really well since her last race, I am really happy with her effort at Wingatui,” Anderton said.

“It was a super run, she finished it off really well. The form out of the race is good.

“Three of them went up to Wellington out of that race, finishing first (Enzo’s Lad) and the other two (Sensei and Signify) dead-heating for third in the Telegraph.”

The Precious One

The Precious One, who is out of dual G1 winner The Jewel (O’Reilly {NZ}), will continue her association with jockey Brett Murray.

Anderton believes the pair’s biggest threat in the race is the Group 3 winner Kiwi Ida (Sequalo).

“Brett is sticking with her and he knows her now and knows how to ride her,” Anderton said.

“We have got to turn the tables on Kiwi Ida from last time, she looks the one to beat, but I am pretty happy with my horse.”

Praying for rain

Racing Queensland is monitoring water supplies at race clubs as an unseasonal dry spell takes hold in the state's south-east.

Toowoomba is the first to be impacted with Friday's meeting transferred to Warwick.

RQ's racing manager Simon Stout said the decision had been taken to rest Toowoomba for another week.

“There has been unseasonal dry weather and parts of the the track needed the extra time to be ready,” he said.

Eagle Farm has only had 80mm of rain since the end of October

Toowoomba isn't the only track affected by a lack of rain and high temperatures.

Doomben and Eagle Farm have had only 80mm of rain since the end of October, about one fifth of the usual.

“Most tracks have had to irrigate extensively and it is naturally putting a strain on water resources,” Stout said.

“But we are well aware of the situation and working closely with clubs to keep the situation in hand.”

Massive meeting for trainer

Tauranga trainer Mark Blackie could be in for his biggest day in racing when he takes a third of his team to the Karaka Million meeting at Ellerslie on Saturday night.

He only has six horses in work and he is excited to have a good representation at one of the biggest meetings on the New Zealand racing calendar.

“I haven’t been back training long and to have two running on Karaka Million night, one with a real genuine chance and the other with a bit of a chance, where you are on the big stage is a bit of a buzz,” Blackie said.

“It’s nice to be up there so quickly again.”

Blackie will line-up Joy Anna (NZ) (Iffraaj {GB}) in the G3 Preferment @ Brighthill Farm Concorde H.p, while Le Castille (NZ) (Dalghar {FR}) will contest the G2 Westbury Classic (1400m).

Le Castille has been in terrific form, winning her last two races and Blackie believes she is a big chance of adding black-type to her record on Saturday.

“I think she can get some black-type in that field depending on luck in the running. It all comes down to the race on the day,” he said.

“She has done very well since her last run at Tauranga and thrived since. I can’t fault her, she has improved since her last run.

“I know she has only had nine starts, but I think she warrants a start in that sort of field. We all need a win and if we didn’t think we could win we wouldn’t be going.”

Blackie is more hopeful with Joy Anna’s chances in the Concorde.

“She has been a little bit out of form since she has come back, we have had a few leg problems with her,” he said.

“She went okay her first start back. We thought maybe she didn’t want to be racing anymore so we went to the Cambridge trials to see where she was at and she seems to be back on her game now.

“Her fitness has improved out of sight. The trial has restored her confidence a bit, mine as well.”

Strappers calling for change, cut of purse

Australian strappers and stable staff will again push for a cut of prizemoney when representatives meet with Racing Victoria on Thursday.

Among those attending will be George McGrath, a UK member of the National Association of Racing Staff, who will provide a comparison of Australian worker's conditions to those of their British counterparts.

"I think the primary difference is that stable staff get a percentage of the prize money," he told Racing.com of the situation in his homeland. "So, in the UK, we have something called pool money. It’s five per cent of anything that a particular yard wins regardless of where that race is won within the country and even abroad. "

"We’re not wanting to frighten trainers and everybody else in Australian racing but five per cent is what we work on in the UK. But having spoken to people and organisations over here in Australia, five per cent is probably not achievable anywhere in the near future but what they do currently have is a one per cent prize money reduction for equine welfare. "

"If you do have that - and it is right and proper to have a reduction for equine welfare, surely to goodness you can have a one per cent reduction for staff welfare. "

"That is a gaping commission at the moment and something I’d like to see addressed in the near future."

McGrath said the National Association of Racing Staff now had more than 6700 members and sought to "enhance and improve the economic and social conditions of all of our members."

"We represent all of the staff working in Great British racing," he said. "First and foremost, we (UK racing) have had a campaign around respect for staff - just giving the strappers and track workers recognition when horses won G1 races or indeed, any races," McGrath said.

"Second, there’s the economic aspect. We’ve improved wages by 20 per cent in the last five years and that’s against an economic downturn. We’ve address the work-life balance because that’s probably the most important thing. It can be a great job but it can be very physically and mentally draining and we’re trying to address that currently in the UK."