Hall of Fame trainer John Hawkes is confident boom colt North Pacific can transfer his brilliance to a firmer track surface and has warned not to overlook the chances of stablemate Ole Kirk in the Group 2 Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
But Hawkes conceded Golden Slipper winner Farnan is the horse to beat in the Run To The Rose which has attracted a star-studded field of seven highly-rated three-year-old sprinters.
Farnan is the TAB Fixed Odds favourite at $2.40 to make a winning return to racing with Queensland’s gun three-year-old Rothfire next at $4.40 just ahead of the Team Hawkes-trained North Pacific $4.60. Ole Kirk is the rank outsider at $23.
North Pacific made his race debut when beaten nearly five lengths into third placing behind Farnan in the Silver Slipper in February.
The sleek, dark brown colt then resumed racing in July, romping home at Rosehill before an even more impressive win in the Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes at Randwick last month.
Both of North Pacific’s wins were on heavy tracks and his Silver Slipper placing was on a soft 7. He will be racing on an improving Rosehill surface on Saturday that is likely to be bordering on a good track rating.
Hawkes doesn’t believe the firmer track is any issue for North Pacific, or OIe Kirk for that matter, but the champion trainer conceded Farnan will be a big hurdle for his two colts to overcome.
“Farnan is definitely the horse to beat,’’ Hawkes said. “He’s trialled very well and looks good.
“But we are happy with our colts. North Pacific is definitely running, he’s progressing well and doing everything right.
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“Ole Kirk is underrated in my book as there is no problem with his form. He’s not out of the equation by any means, he’s in the mix somewhere.
“I do think both our colts will be better suited when they get to 1400m.’’
Ole Kirk, a close relation to Black Caviar and All Too Hard, was Group 1 placed as a juvenile and resumed in The Rosebud last month where conceded 5kg to the flying Anders before finishing second, beaten nearly five lengths. Anders has franked the form by winning the San Domenico Stakes at his next start.
There is some talk about a start in the $15 million The TAB Everest next month for North Pacific but particularly his stablemate, Masked Crusader who is $1.95 favourite to win the Vale Rick Worthington Handicap (1100m).
Hawkes, who co-trains with his sons, Wayne and Michael, wasn’t buying into The Everest debate for either of his sprinters although he declared Masked Crusader was ready to race after a small boil on the four-year-old’s mouth prompted his withdrawal from a Randwick race last week.
“Masked Crusader is fine, he’s going well,’’ Hawkes said. “If the race was 1200m it would be better but it is what it is. The track won’t be as wet as Randwick was when he ran last start so that should help him.’’
Masked Crusader resumed with a fast-finishing second to Varda on a bottomless heavy 10 surface at Randwick last month. The Hawkes stable has given the young sprinter plenty of time to get over that run and he looks to have conditions in his favour today despite drawing a little awkwardly in gate nine.
Hawkes is also hoping for better luck in running for Wild Planet in the Group 2 $200,000 Theo Marks Stakes (1200m) while promising Kingsheir will line up in the Rosehill Bowling Club Handicap (1500m).
“Wild Planet had none (luck) first-up and will be competitive,’’ said Hawkes of Wild Planet’s luckless eighth to Roheryn in the Group 3 Show County Quality.
“Kingsheir is only a young horse, this is a step up in class from what he has been running in but he’s deserves his chance.’’
Hawkes will be keeping a keen eye on the Flemington program where the stable has talented stayer Master Of Wine contesting the Group 1 $750,000 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and emerging three-year-old Doubtland in the Group 2 $200,000 Danehill Stakes (1200m).
Both have been sent to Melbourne after unplaced first-up runs in Sydney but Hawkes expects both to run improved races at Flemington.
“Master Of Wine is a staying horse not a sprinting type and even a mile is not his go,’’ Hawkes said. “As long as he is running on we will be happy.
“We decided to send Doubtland to Melbourne because if he stayed here he would have been running against his stablemates (North Pacific and Ole Kirk).
“We are trying to run our horses in the best races that suits them so there was no point having Doubtland up here running in the same race as the others. This way we have chances in two races instead of one.’’
SLIPPER CURSE WON’T SPOOK FARNAN
Farnan is so fast, he can even outrun the Golden Slipper curse!
Remarkably, six of the past seven Golden Slipper winners never won another race but Farnan’s trainer Gai Waterhouse won’t hear of her outstanding colt being beaten when he resumes in the Group 2 $200,000 Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
In fact, the ever-confident Waterhouse even took to social media and declared she “cannot see any reason why he should be defeated this preparation’’.
Waterhouse, who trains in partnership with Adrian Bott, hasn’t backed down from those comments, either. “Farnan is the most dominant colt in Australia,’’ she said.
“I can tell you Farnan has gone ahead in leaps and bounds, he’s doing everything right. You can see it in his trials and trackwork.
“Farnan is up against some good three-year-olds but most of these are the horses he has beaten as two-year-olds.’’
Punters are also dismissing the so-called Golden Slipper curse with TAB Fixed Odds reporting a sensational plunge on Farnan this week. Farnan is a firm favourite at $2.40 after a series of huge bets including $4500 at $2.40 and $2000 at $2.40 multiple times.
Bott takes a more measured approach when talking about the Tulloch Lodge runners than his exuberant training partner.
“It adds a bit more pressure at times but in fairness Gai has been right when she has said that about her horses before,’’ Bott said on Sky Thoroughbred Central’s Trek To The Everest this week.
“I love that about Gai as well because you get the confidence from Gai as well as the horse. You have that voice there saying you have the horse right and he is where he needs to be.
“She doesn’t say that about every horse so he’s certainly a special colt and I feel he can live up to those expectations.’’
Bott said Farnan has shown his usual brilliant speed to win successive barrier trials in recent weeks and is “right up to the mark” for the Run To The Rose.
“He’s naturally a very athletic horse and gets himself fit quite easily,’’ Bott said.
So, is this usual talk of a Golden Slipper curse relevant or just a media fabrication?
An examination of the past 30 Golden Slipper winners shows 12 never won another race: Prowl (1998), Catbird (1999), Calaway Gal (2002), Polar Success (2003), Stratum (2005), Crystal Lily (2010), Overreach (2013), Mossfun (2014), Vancouver (2015), Capitalist (2016), Estijaab (2018) and Kiamichi (2019).
But 10 Slipper winners trained on to Group 1 level as older horses: Flying Spur (1995), Belle Du Jour (2000), Ha Ha (2001), Dance Hero (2004), Miss Finland (2006), Forensics (2007), Sepoy (2011), Pierro (2012) and She Will Reign (2017).
During the same period, Golden Slipper placegetters With Me (1990), St Covet and Racer’s Edge (1994), Octagonal (1995), Flavour (1996), Encounter (1997), Shogun Lodge (1999), Assertive Lad (2000), Excellerator (2001), Choisir (2002), Charge Forward and Alinghi (2004), Fashions Afield (2005), Mosheen (2011), Snitzerland and Samaready (2012), Sweet Idea (2013), English (2015), Yankee Rose and Flying Artie (2016), Oohood and Sunlight (2018) trained on to win at the highest level.
Gai’s right again — so much for the so-called Golden Slipper curse.
MIZZY ON A MISSION
“Mizzy has beaten all these mares before and there is no reason why she can’t do it again.”
This was trainer Anthony Cummings’s declaration on the eve of Mizzy’s comeback to racing in the Group 2 $200,000 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens.
Cummings has given up trying to work out why Mizzy is often overlooked and noticed the mare is again at generous double figure odds ($10) behind old rival Fasika ($2.40).
“She seems to be a very underrated mare,’’ Cummings said. “But that’s for others to judge, I’m happy she is in my stable.’’
Mizzy is attempting to go back-to-back in the Sheraco Stakes after edging out Fasika in a thriller last year. She then trained on to win the Golden Pendant before finishing successive thirds in the Silver Eagle and Golden Eagle.
Cummings revealed Mizzy had a muscle problem behind after the Golden Eagle which forced her to miss the autumn carnival.
“We thought it came good but it hadn’t, her trials and trackwork in the autumn was not up to her usual standard,’’ Cummings said.
“So, we decided to wait and she went back to the spelling paddock. I think plainly that was a good decision because she has been her old self since coming back into work.’’
Mizzy provided evidence of this with her second behind Godolphin’s top sprinter Bivouac in a barrier trial at Randwck earlier this week.
“She’s going really well and from the good gate, she should be hard to beat,’’ Cummings said.
“We are planning to run her in the Golden Pendant second-up then see if she has done enough to be in The Everest mix and that should take care of itself. If not, then we will go to the Angst Stakes and then the mares mile race (Empire Rose Stakes) in Melbourne.’’
Meanwhile, Libertini showed in the Bivouac trial that she is coming up well for her spring campaign with Cummings also hoping the mare can stake claims for a Everest start.
“She will trial again on the 25th then probably runs first-up in the Premiere Stakes,’’ Cummings said.
It’s worth remembering Libertini ran an extraordinary 1m 7.93s winning the Silver Shadow Stakes first-up at Randwick over 1200m last year.
There were 19 nominations for the Sheraco Stakes – and unusually all accepted for the race. This left a capacity field of 16 plus three emergencies with no fewer than eight of the starters boasting a rating of 100 or more.
There is every likelihood the Golden Rose winner will be racing at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday. Since 2012, The Run To The Rose has produced six winners of the Golden Rose with Bivouac (2019), Astern (2016), Exosphere (2015) and Hallowed Crown (2014) completing the double. Zoustar (fourth, 2013) and Epaulette (third, 2012) improved from the first leg to win the Golden Rose. The Autumn Sun (2018) and Trapeze Artist (2017) were both beaten at the Run To The Rose meeting in the 1500m lead-up race now called the Dulcify Quality before winning the Golden Rose.
Zacada’s 66.5kg impost for the Cleanaway Handicap (1800m) at Rosehill is the biggest weight allotted for a Sydney Saturday race in many years. In fact, I can’t recall a horse carrying so much weight since Tiger Town had 68.5kg when a close second in a welter way back in 1976.
To put Zacada’s handicap into perspective, the mighty Carbine won the 1890 Melbourne Cup shouldering 65.5kg (10 st 5lbs), a race record that is unlikely to ever be broken. Another legendary champion Bernborough set the national Group 1 record when he carried 68.5kg (10st 11lbs) when he won the 1946 Doomben Cup.