Oohood next cab off McEvoy 2YO rank
Trainer Tony McEvoy is aiming to continue his consistent results in the juvenile races this season, with Oohood his only confirmed starter four days out from Saturday's Listed Merson Cooper Stakes (1000m) at Ladbrokes Park.
True to form, McEvoy has six of the 19 horses on the Merson Cooper shortlist, but Oohood was the only one of his babies to grace the Sandown turf on Tuesday morning - galloping with stablemate Concealer.
McEvoy first won the Merson Cooper in 2011 with Maximus Moonard and again in 2015 with Jackson before saddling up the equal-favourite last year - Vinland (fifth) - and now brings Oohood for a crack at the five-furlong event, for big supporter Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
While he has only had the one juvenile horse win for him this season - Sheikh Mohammed's Run Naan (twice) - McEvoy has placed with eight-of-11 runs from his babies in a promising collective start for his young horse flesh. Roobeena and Hikaya are another couple of the Sheikh's horses McEvoy has been able to get into the top three on debut.
Run Naan winning at Flemington, picture Quentinjlang.com
And he thinks Oohood will be better for Tuesday's outing, in which Luke Currie rode.
"It was really nice, and to able to bring her here and familiarise her with the actual track she's running on on Saturday is a great help to us," McEvoy said.
"She quickened up nicely. Luke said she came down the hill well. I was really pleased with her, she pulled up fit and she's ready to go."
On a whole, McEvoy has so far been thrilled with the performances of his early-season two-year-olds - and also warned the best might still be to come.
"I'm very, very pleased with how they've gone. It says our structure's working with the babies, we're buying the right horses, there's a lot more to come with my babies so I'm really looking forward to the new ones I'm about to step out," McEvoy said.
McEvoy said he's throwing down the gauntlet to Vinland again on this raceday 12 months on from his debut in the Merson Cooper, stepping him up into the $250,000 Sandown Guineas (1600m) off the back of a Bendigo maiden win over 1400m on November 1.
"He ran very well that day [on debut], he got back and got a bit lost and ran on very strongly to run fifth," McEvoy recounted.
"I then took him to Sydney, he ran a great race in Sydney, he got knocked over, and on a wet track, and ran sixth.
"His return after knee surgery the other day [at Bendigo] was very impressive.
"Second-up to the Group 2 is an aggressive placement, but he's a horse I've got a lot of time for and I think he's up to it."
Nicconi mare Concealer is just another example of a horse McEvoy was able to get going as soon as she hit the track, winning the Ottawa Stakes at Flemington on debut in the spring of 2015.
However, she has unluckily been able to add to that success, albeit adding Group 2 and Group 3 placings since - including last start behind Lyuba on Melbourne Cup Day.
McEvoy said that might have been the run to tune her up for Saturday's attempt at the Listed Doveton Stakes against the boys - albeit he said his hands were tied with the schedule.
"The program's tough for a mare like her. That was the last mares race around [Concealer's last start]," he said.
"I've now got to take on the boys in the Doveton. There's just nothing else to run a mare like her in.
"Because she ran so well and it was only her second run in such a long time, eight to nine months coming off surgery, I just didn't feel like putting her out of work when she's in such great form and she hadn't been able to win a race for the owners despite running really well.
"She's trained on beautifully, she's lovely and bright, and I thought she worked bright here this morning, and she'll run beautifully here."
Concealer has been through a fair bit in her eight-start career, and McEvoy said overcoming mental demons from injury setbacks has been half the battle with getting her to her top.
"She's a real fighter. She had three lots of surgery on her hind tendon that got galloped on in a race," he added.
"Then she battled a nasty infection. It was touch and go for some time, and she pulled through. We don't have to doubt her fighting qualities."