Friday, June 15, 2007

Australians in good heart before Royal Ascot

for immediate release, Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Australia’s exciting and powerful four-strong challenge for next week’s two Royal Ascot sprints involved in the Global Sprint Challenge was unveiled this morning at Newmarket.
Last year’s King’s Stand Stakes winner Takeover Target, trained by Joe Janiak, Bentley Biscuit, from Gai Waterhouse’s stable, Magnus, who will be saddled by Peter Moody, and the Lee Freedman-trained Miss Andretti were all put through their paces this morning.
Takeover Target, Magnus and Miss Andretti all worked early on the Limekilns gallop, while Bentley Biscuit came up the July Course in a solo spin under big-race pilot Nash Rawiller.
"That was his main hit before (the Group Two £200,000 King’s Stand Stakes five furlongs) next Tuesday and it’s great to come out of a gallop like that so well," said Rawiller. "There’s only a couple of lengths between the four of us but my bloke’s coming into it having won his last three and if you watch him beating Takeover Target last time that was one of his best performances.
"The more pace the better at Ascot and I missed the kick on him last time - I wouldn’t want to do that again. The horse has a will to win and an amazing ability to find the winning post.
"The experience from having come over here two years ago with Elvstroem will be a big help. He ran some terrific races for us then and, from that point on, I’ve just wanted to come back here and win a Group One - winning at Ascot would mean everything. I’ve been privileged to win a Caulfield Cup but to win a race at Royal Ascot would be a chance in a lifetime."
For trainer Gai Waterhouse - known as the ‘First Lady of Australian Racing’ - it is a dream come true to be heading to Royal Ascot with a leading contender.
"I lived in England for three years in the 1970s and I think I’ve only missed Royal Ascot five times since then," she said. "Ascot is probably the premier meeting in the world, I don’t know where else you’d find a better track now it has been done up.
"But it’s expensive to travel and you’re not just going to come over for the sake of it, you’ve got to have the right horse. We’ve come a long way and we are not over just for the nice breakfast we had this morning!
"I was delighted with Bentley Biscuit’s work this morning, I wanted him to fold into it over six furlongs, going faster over each furlong and we were very privileged to have the use of the July Course - it’s a wonderful track.
"I’m biased but my horse has really pleased me. Takeover Target had beaten the best horses here last year and then we beat him on our last run. Takeover Target then went on to beat Gold Edition, the best filly we’ve seen since Sunline.
"Miss Andretti has shown brilliant speed at home and is the best we have, Takeover Target is proven at Ascot and Magnus beat us in the Galaxy but we also have the local horses and jockeys, who have the home advantage, to think about.
"They are four different types of horses and we’ve constantly been up against each other and there’s a great camaraderie between all the connections."
Waterhouse hopes to contest both Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes and Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes (June 23, Group One & worth £350,000) with the six-year-old.
"I think the Golden Jubilee trip of six furlongs will suit mine better and if he pulls up well after Tuesday’s race he’ll be back on Saturday - but, if he’s not going to be competitive, I won’t run him," she added. "We’ll take each race as it comes and if he continues running well we’ll be at Newmarket for the Darley July Cup. He’s a very competitive animal and hates to be beaten, he’s a real cool dude."
Freedman, whose Miss Andretti is disputing favouritism for both legs of the Global Sprint Challenge at Royal Ascot next week, has learnt from his experience of bringing over Falkirk last year.
The 50-year-old commented: "This mare is different to the horse we brought last year. Falkirk was a weak big thing although he was an entire - he had foot trouble nearly all the time he was here and it was a case of trying to hold him together rather than carry on as normal and train.
"Miss Andretti has done very, very well so we can train her a bit more which should be an advantage and she is a 119-rated at home while he was 109. She is a significantly better horse. I am always disappointed if I don’t win but it won’t shock me.
"I think she has travelled very well - it is always a risk when you travel a mare. She is very adaptable - she has had a bit of racing and had a bit of travelling. Once she got here and settled into the surroundings - she has a paddock like she does at home - she was pretty happy.
"She is a very good mare - particularly when fresh and has won all her starts first up from breaks. She is probably best around a corner when she can kick off a bend but she won down the straight at Flemington last May in a Listed race - her first run for me - and finished third in a straight Group One. So I don’t think the straight course is going to worry her too much.
"Even though she has won big sprints, she is not what I call a speed horse - she doesn’t come out and lead them or sit right by them. She will probably sit off them and she is always very strong in the last furlong. We will play it by ear - our jockey (Craig Newitt) is used to her. He has never been here but he rides in a lot of big sprints at home so he understands about speed.
"The only horse we have not met since I have had her is Takeover Target and he is the one I worry about because I just don’t know how she will measure up against him. He has been here, done it, is very hard to see off and a brave horse.
"The Australians are getting all the attention but that is not always what you want and it is not going to be a four-horse race with 20 runners in it. We have to keep our guard up.
"As you get older you tend to compare horses with those who went before which you shouldn’t do. Miss Andretti is good at the moment but she has a bit of a way to go to be as good as Alinghi (a top two-year-old in 2004 and winner of the six-furlong Newmarket Handicap the following year before being sold to America).
"Miss Andretti has shown Group One ability since we had her - the trend is still going upwards. I want her to run in the King’s Stand Stakes over five furlongs because it will suit her. I think she has a better chance in that than in the six-furlong Golden Jubilee. She is used to climbing a gradient in her work."
Caulfield-based Peter Moody is paying his first visit to Britain and he hopes that the five-year-old Magnus will enhance his stud value with a good performance at Ascot.
"The horse’s long-term value is really why we’re here. He’s been offered places at stud in Australia but he would be worth far more if he won at Ascot," said Moody. "There’s nothing definite about which races we go for and we could even go home after Tuesday if we thought we we’re hurting his value by continuing to run him here. There are a lot of variables and if he wins one and the oil wells come calling then they can have him.
"I’ve had it in mind to bring one over here ever since Choisir’s wins at Ascot in 2003 - that gave me the confidence to have a crack if I had the right horse. I’ve had Group One sprinters for the past four years but they’ve tended to be mares at the end of their career but this fellow is improving - although he needs to. I think he has more improvement than any of my fellow travellers as he’s a baby. It’s my first time here and, if it works out, I might bring a longer distance horse over in the future and shake a few people up!
"Mark Wallace is a good friend of mine and he’s going to show me some of the races that have been run over here. I watched his horse Benbaun work this morning and he went very well. Horses like that have to be at an advantage if they don’t need to travel.
"Ascot will not be dissimilar to the major sprints we have at Flemington, the pressure and speed are on the whole way and we’re used to the pressure cooker situation.
"Damien Oliver has just successfully delayed a suspension so he’ll be able to ride and hopefully be on a plane over here later today."
Joe Janiak, who has seen it all before, is pleased with Takeover Target’s condition. He said: "He weighs at the moment 512 and has won weighing 530. I have trimmed him off a little bit and he seems better for it.
"I think as he has got older he has lost a bit of his early speed and when we get home I may try him over a mile. I think the six-furlong Golden Jubilee is gong to suit him better than the five of the King Stand’s Stakes this year.
"He will be nice and fresh for Tuesday and that should top him up for the six-furlong race. He will go home after Royal Ascot."
Chris Stickels, Ascot’s Clerk of the Course, reported this morning that the going at Ascot is good to firm.
He explained: "We are currently good to firm and on the fast side of that. We had a dry weekend and it was quite hot. The forecast is for the weather to turn wet and we could see up to an inch of rain before Saturday which will save me having to water at least.
"Following that, the forecast is for high pressure to come in so we are looking at a generally more settled week from Sunday. There is the chance of an odd light shower with temperatures between 20 and 21 degrees Celsius."
Royal Ascot take place on five days between Tuesday, June 19 and Saturday, June 23.

For more information, please contact Nick Smith on 07771 791449.



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