Seldom can two classic opponents be so well named, be as close in the markets, and yet be so diametrically opposed in stature as Laser Hawk and Silent Achiever (NZ) in the$1.5m, Group 1 David Jones Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Laser Hawk is a hulking 17h Artie Schiller gelding build in the mould of his half-brother Desert War who made a speciality of dominating Randwick during his fine career under the same care of Gai Waterhouse. He has scope and a raw body that he is still growing into.
Laser Hawk at Tulloch Lodge, picture Liesl King
Waterhouse started Laser Hawk, a home-bred by Gooree Pastoral, at the provincials with the Derby a long way away in thinking. He won over 1400m at Newcastle on September 24th and then again at Gosford over 1600m before he was spelled.
Produced again on February 25th at Rosehill, Laser Hawk won over 1500m in Bm80 company. Waterhouse then stepped him up to black type heights and the Group 1 Randwick Guineas over 1600m on March 17th.
On a Slow 6 track he was beaten by the outstanding filly Mosheen and Said Com (NZ) with the margins a neck and half-neck. Number one stable jockey Nash Rawiller declared afterwards that Laser Hawk was a very good horse.
He franked that comment with an outstanding ride combined with considerable toughness from Laser Hawk to win the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas over 1600m on March 31st defeating Ocean Park (NZ) and Silent Achiever by a half-neck and a long head.
Silent Achiever, a 15h filly trained by Roger James, has already won a Derby when taking out the New Zealand classic over 2400m at Ellerslie on March 3rd.
Silent Achiever and Roger James, picture Liesl King
At Rosehill jockey Hugh Bowman brought her down the outside of the track after giving away a considerable start to Laser Hawk who was on the inside. It was fortunate for those watching as if she had been inside Laser Hawk she might have been missed such is her feminine, almost petite, statue.
If the two were side by side she would need a step ladder to go eye-for-eye with Laser Hawk.
But what this filly misses in bulk she makes up for in an outstanding athletic frame from her sire O’Reilly. She is balanced and possessing of stamina to use that balance over the 2400m that would not readily be apparent at first appraisal.
Silent Achiever also has an essential mental capacity to handle the pressure of high class racing, as well as new environments, as she has thrived at Randwick as James prepares her for Saturday’s assignment.
Silent Achiever goes through her paces at Randwick, picture Liesl King
She also has 54.5kg on Saturday giving her a 2kg difference over the 56.5kg that the colts and geldings will carry. This will be crucial as combined with her previous winning experience over the distance, which neither Laser Hawk nor Ocean Park have, she has only been beaten by both of them by less than a half-length.
TAB Sportsbet’s market on Thursday afternoon still gives the advantage to Laser Hawk as favourite at $3.20, but Silent Achiever is being kept safe at $3.80. Ocean Park is next at $5.00.
Both Laser Hawk and Silent Achiever are declared by their respective trainers to be in fine form and to have come through the Rosehill Guineas well. Their barriers are 11 and nine on Saturday which have not caused any problems for connections.
“He is such a big horse that he needs the galloping room and he will roll forward from the barrier. He will be right up on the pace somewhere. Nash will just put him to sleep somewhere and he will be trained to perfection,” said Gooree’s Andrew Baddock.
“We have been there a couple of years ago with Don Eduardo and this is a home-bred so we are very excited. It was one of our best thrills with Don Eduardo so ten years later is a great thrill.
“It is a long haul from conception all the way through and I know Mr Cojuangco gets a lot of satisfaction out of breeding these good horses. He loves it and he will be there on Saturday so it is a great buzz for everyone,” he said.
“It is an honour to have a runner in the race and to win it would be superb. I cannot imagine what it would be like but it is very exciting,’ said James.
“It was a tough run for her in the Rosehill Guineas and she is a fair way through her whole preparation and I just wondered how she would come through it, but she has amazed me.
Even on Monday morning she was bright and sharp. She is a little filly that is not a big feeder and she just gets about her business with the minimum of fuss,” he said.
The Australian Derby is race seven of the nine race Randwick programme at 3.35pm.
Roger James at Randwick on Thursday, video ThoroughbredNEWS.
Silent Achiever, Randwick trackwork, Thursday, April, 12, 2012, video ThoroughbredNEWS