A quiet weekend on the domestic front for trainer Jamie Richards provided him with the opportunity to focus on the Australian-based members of his Matamata operation, who performed with credit despite not managing to bring up a victory in either Melbourne or Sydney.
First cab off the rank was last season’s Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) winner Sword Of State who made his Australian debut in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) at Randwick, finishing in midfield after a torrid passage in the running under his 60kg topweight.
“I thought he got a pass mark in the end as he was caught three and four wide carrying 60kgs on a track that favoured the on-pace runners all day,” Richards said.
“He is the type of horse that no matter how much work you do with him, he always seems to need one run under his belt before he hits his straps.
“I wasn’t disappointed with him, given the circumstances and there is plenty of improvement left in him.
“He pulled up well and will go to the Roman Consul Stakes (Gr.2, 1200m) back at Randwick in a fortnight.”
Richards was also delighted with class mare Entriviere who came from well off the pace to finish third in the Gr.2 Golden Pendant (1400m) after a tardy get away saw her settle well back in the early running for rider James McDonald.
“She (Entriviere) was just a touch in season travelling to the track, so we notified the stewards of that, but I don’t really think that affected her in the wash-up of the run,” Richards said.
“James was quite bitter about the way the track played with such a bias for the front runners and when the leader got a soft sectional it basically put paid to our chances.
“I’m keen to see what she came home in as she made up a lot of ground, so I think once she gets back to Randwick and the bigger track, she will be a big chance.
“She is going to have some time off now, before a quiet trial leading into The Invitation (A$2million, 1400m) on October 23, provided we do receive an invitation to the race.”
Despite facing just four rivals in the Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown, triple Group One winner Probabeel ran into emerging star Zaaki and went down fighting in finishing a gutsy second to the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) favourite.
“The winner looks to be a superstar, so I don’t think she (Probabeel) lost any admirers with that run,” Richards said.
“I think we pulled the right rein in going to weight-for-age company and the back-up from last week didn’t worry her.
“She will tackle the Might And Power Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) next, where she will meet Zaaki again and then we can decide if we press on to the Cox Plate or maybe head to the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) at Flemington as another option.”
Richards also reported that last season’s Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner Kahma Lass would tackle the Listed Weekend Hustler Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on October 9 while back in Sydney, Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Amarelinha would have her second run in this campaign in the Gr.3 Angst Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on the same day.
On the local front Gr.3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) winner Savy Yong Blonk will most likely bypass Saturday’s Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) in favour of a run at Te Rapa on Friday.
“We are leaning towards giving Savy Yong Blonk a run closer home to home at Te Rapa on Friday, rather than heading to Hastings,” Richards said.
“She is still on target for the Livamol Classic (Gr.1, 2040m) on the last day there, but if she goes there on Saturday, it will be three tough trips away in six weeks, which is not ideal.
“At this stage we will have Prise De Fer in the Windsor Park Plate, despite him being a little disappointing in finishing seventh in the Tarzino Trophy (Gr.1, 1400m) last time.
“We’ve given him a freshen up and I’m hoping he will be back to his best after that wee break.”
Zaaki (GB) and Craig Williams with Probabeel (NZ) and Brett Prebble highlighted on the screen in Saturday's Group 1 Underwood Stakes at Sandown-Hillside, picture Racing Photos