Talented three-year-old Mass Destruction is poised to join boom stablemate Miami Fleiss in The Jewel next month if he wins first up at the Sunshine Coast.
Mass Destruction indicated he was on target for The Jewel 3YO Prelude (1000m) on Saturday when he scored a comfortable win in a 1000 metre barrier trial at Doomben on Feburary 16.
“If he brings his last trial to the races on Saturday he’ll be right in it,” Craig Cavanough, foreman for trainer Tony Gollan, said.
“His goal is The Jewel at the Gold Coast and this is a nice little stepping stone for him first up over 1000 metres.”
Gollan holds a vice-like grip on The Jewel 3YO (1200m) at the Gold Coast on March 13 with Miami Fleiss his number one seed after her outstanding win at Doomben on February 13.
Cavanough believes the presence of several noted speed runners in Saturday’s Prelude will suit the racing pattern of Mass Destruction.
“There’s a lot of speed in the race with four or five who only know one thing and that’s to go hard so he should get a nice run in behind them,” he said.
Mass Destruction will be ridden by Ryan Maloney who has formed a lethal combination with Gollan this season.
From 97 rides for Gollan, Maloney has won 27 races at a strike rate of nearly 30 per cent.
Mass Destruction is $4.20 with TAB fixed odds for the Prelude, challenging the Michael Nolan-trained Kisukano ($4) for favouritism.
Kisukano is aiming to salvage her reputation, which was dented when she finished a disappointing eighth to Athiri in the Nudgee Stakes (1200m) at Eagle Farm on January 2, her first unplaced effort.
Trainer Michael Nolan is confident Kisukano can return to form after she scored a dominant victory in a recent Toowoomba jump out.
“She won by about eight or ten lengths and it was the best she’s ever gone in a jump out for me,” Nolan said.
“Skye Bogenhuber rode her and she said Kisukano gave her a great feel.”
In the Jewel Prelude for two-year-old fillies, Rockhampton-trained filly Sweet Dolly is a firm $2 favourite to maintain her unbeaten record.
Patrick Payne wasn’t perturbed with Cherry Tortoni’s wide barrier draw in the Australian Guineas as he believes that should suit his style of racing.
Payne said barrier 17 would work for Cherry Tortoni in terms of his galloping style as it would give him plenty of room.
Payne felt at Cherry Tortoni’s previous run in the C S Hayes Stakes where he finished fourth he didn’t like being caught inside of horses.
On that occasion, Cherry Tortoni drew barrier five and didn’t get clear galloping room until late in the race.
“That didn’t suit him as he didn’t like being tight on the corners. From that draw he can have a good, peaceful run and he will be ridden conservatively,” Payne said.
Payne said Cherry Tortoni would take improvement from the Australian Guineas and come out of the race in better condition for the Alister Clark Stakes.
“He had a fairly busy time as a three-year-old. He’s returned a lot stronger,” Payne said.
Payne thinks Cherry Tortoni, who is second up, might be one run short going into Saturday’s 1600 metre feature.
“If he gets reasonable luck I think he would finish in the first four to six,” Payne said.
After the Alister Clark Stakes, Payne will take Cherry Tortoni to Sydney for the Australian Derby in early April.
Last spring, Cherry Tortoni won the Moonee Valley Vase over 2040 metres before finishing fourth in the Victoria Derby.
Payne’s other runner is three-year-old Japery, who will contest the $500,000 Inglis Dash.
“He’s back down the straight which will suit. I’m not sure he’s up to these horses but the prize money is too good to ignore,” he said.
Payne has decided to start his in-form middle-distance galloper Defibrillate in Saturday week’s Australian Cup.
“I had a good look at the entries and it’s not a vintage Australian Cup,” he said.
James Cummings is confident the race and track conditions set up for emerging star Colette to replicate her first-up performance in the Group One Chipping Norton Stakes.
The mare snuck under the guard of punters when she cruised to victory as a $12 chance in the Apollo Stakes two weeks ago.
She meets a similar field at Randwick on Saturday and with the track again set to be rain-affected, trainer James Cummings sees no reason Colette can’t assert her dominance.
“Track and weather forecasts suggest she will have similar conditions to those she enjoyed in her impressive first-up victory,” Cummings said.
“She meets similar opposition on Saturday, she is fit and healthy, and steps up to the mile.”
“We are hopeful of a repeat performance.”
Bookmakers have taken few risks with Colette, marking her a $3.30 second pick with TAB fixed odds on Friday, behind only Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant ($2.60), who will be out to exact revenge for her Apollo Stakes defeat.
Godolphin have selected the Chipping Norton as a campaign starting point for stable warrior Avilius, who has not raced since finishing fifth in the Sandown Classic in November.
Like Colette, the seven-year-old also enjoys soft conditions and Cummings says he continues to show a zest for competition.
“We are looking forward to his return to racing. His latest barrier trial suggested he still has plenty to offer and he has generally run well first-up,” he said.
Up-and-coming Godolphin four-year-old Criaderas will also be in action at Randwick when he returns in the Liverpool City Cup.
An unlucky third to Greysful Glamour in the Villiers Stakes over the summer, Criaderas has won four of his eight starts and is on a path towards the Doncaster Mile.
“He is resuming after a couple of outstanding, but luckless efforts last preparation,” Cummings said.
“There is no doubting his potential and the break and recent trial augers well for his return to the track.”
Fresh from a four-winner haul at Rosehill last weekend, Rachel King will ride Criaderas and Colette for Godolphin, along with stablemates Thermosphere in the Surround Stakes and Sliders in the Sweet Embrace Stakes.
The Golden Slipper is less than a month away and the next two weeks of juvenile racing are shaping as critical form references for the world’s richest two-year-old race.
Magic Millions winner Shaquero returns in the Skyline Stakes at Randwick on Saturday while two of Sydney’s most promising fillies, Four Moves Ahead and Mallory, clash in the Sweet Embrace Stakes.
Seven days later, unbeaten colt Remarque is set to lay his Slipper credentials bare in the Todman Stakes after missing the Silver Slipper due to a minor setback.
Tommy Berry has two Slippers on his resume courtesy of Overreach (2013) and Vancouver (2015) and he is yet to commit to his mount this year.
He will test Hawkes Racing colt Hilal in the Skyline and stablemate Remarque in next weekend’s Todman, while he is also keen on the chances of the Annabel Neasham-trained Northuldra in the Sweet Embrace Stakes.
“I think this week and next week in the Todman will sort the wheat from the chaff and where the best horses are going to lie leading into the big day,” Berry said.
Berry holds both Hilal and Northuldra in high regard and says the latter is a live chance at double-figure odds.
“She is one filly no-one should discount,” Berry said.
“What she did at her first start at Rosehill off one 740 metre trial was quite amazing. She hadn’t had a lot of work leading up to that and it was a very tough run, on the speed and on a wet deck.
“She will probably be one of my biggest-priced rides on the day but she will probably be one of my better rides on the day.”
Berry is also a big fan of Hilal.
The youngster scored a remarkable debut win, chasing down King Of Sparta who looked to have the race in the bag.
Berry says Hilal reminds him of Team Hawkes’ 2016 Caulfield Guineas winner Divine Prophet, who finished third in the Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old.
“Divine Prophet had a very good turn of foot over the shorter trips as well,” Berry said.
“To show the turn of foot he did when he won, and he wasn’t entitled to win on the day, was quite exciting.
“But he’s still got to step up and prove himself.”
Champion jockey and Australian Hall Of Fame member Jim ‘Jimmy’ Johnson has passed away at the age of 92.
Racing Victoria, the Victorian Jockeys’ Association and the Victoria Racing Club each acknowledged the sadness of the occasion and paid homage to the decorated hoop.
Johnson was a three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey having been successful on Gatum Gatum in 1963 and also in 1968 and 1969 on Rain Lover.
Johnson was also associated with champion Tobin Bronze aboard who he won a Caulfield Cup and two Cox Plates.
Johnson won four Adelaide jockeys’ premierships before he relocated to Melbourne where he was champion jockey in 1966-67.
He rode in Singapore from 1970 to 1973, winning the jockeys’ title there in 1972 and 1973.
When he retired in 1976, he had ridden 2158 winners and claimed his place as one of the greats of Australian racing.
Johnson was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2009.
Racing Victoria Chief executive Giles Thompson said Johnson was an exceptional jockey.
“He is one of the few jockeys to win a Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate and his achievements in the saddle will long be remembered and celebrated through his place in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame,” Thompson said.
“Jimmy was a popular member of the racing community, a true gentleman and great ambassador for our sport long after his incredible success in the saddle.
“He was an active and passionate supporter of the racing industry in retirement as a regular face on the Melbourne Cup Tour and attendee at Hall Of Fame functions.”
Cody Morgan will be keeping a close watch on the skies as much as Ligulate’s opposition in Saturday’s Listed Tattersall’s Mile at the Sunshine Coast.
Corbould Park was rated a heavy eight on Thursday after copping 41 millimetres of rain in a 24-hour period until 8am, taking the weekly total to 60 mls.
Morgan is desperate for some drying weather because he is adamant Ligulate is an inferior performer on wet tracks.
“As long as he’s not on anything worse than a soft six or soft seven then he’s at his best,” Morgan said.
“In the Country Championship Final last year we ran him on really wet ground and because he’s such a big, heavy horse he’s not as good on those sort of surfaces.”
Last year when Morgan took over the training of the gelding he regarded him as a sprinter until his victory in a 1630 metre class six at Doomben prompted a rethink.
“When Godolphin had him they tried him at a trip and he didn’t really handle it as a young horse and that probably got stuck in my mind to keep around the seven furlongs,” Morgan said.
“But as he’s got older he’s handling the mile and further no worries at all.”
Ligulate has been a revelation during the summer carnival in Queensland.
After finishing a close second, beaten a short half-head by Tokoriki Lad at the Sunshine Coast, Ligulate won three of his next four starts.
“We had him second up in the Kosciuszko last October so he’s had a long preparation but he’s not showing any signs of needing the paddock just yet,” Morgan said.
“The three weeks between his last win and this race is pretty suitable then it’s two weeks and back up to the 1800 metres for the Gold Coast Stakes.”
Based at Tamworth, Morgan is enjoying another bumper season with 25 winners from only 106 runners at an impressive strike rate of 23 per cent.
He is rapidly closing in on his tally of 28 winners last season and is well on the way to breaking his personal best of 35 wins set in 2018-19.
Away Game has been cleared to line up in the Group One Surround Stakes after recovering from an injury scare.
The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained filly slipped while she was being unloaded from a float midweek, sustaining an abrasion to her hip.
She was examined by Racing NSW vet Toby Koenig on Thursday and he ruled her fit to race.
Last year’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner, Away Game has not missed a place in three starts this preparation, the latest when third to Every Rose in the Light Fingers Stakes.
The runner-up in that race, Never Talk, will also contest the Surround (1400m) and trainer Kris Lees says she will again be suited by a rain-affected track.
He admits the filly has continued to prove a surprise packet and has been thriving on racing.
“She has surprised me nearly every start to be honest. She just keeps improving,” Lees said.
“She is on trial at the trip but she’s fit and well.
“She has been up for a little while so you’re always a bit guarded about how many runs they’ve got in a prep but I’m seeing no signs to suggest she has come to the end of her preparation.”
Jason Collett will partner Never Talk from barrier seven while Glen Boss reunites with Away Game, who has drawn awkwardly in gate 14.
Leading Perth trainer Sean Casey has had to venture to Melbourne to gain the services of his champion local jockey Willie Pike but he is thankful for the rare opportunity .
Pike will ride Dom To Shoot for the Sean and Jake Casey stable in the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Casey said he had little hesitation in accepting the offer when Pike’s manager Dale Verhagen rang him and said he was keen to ride Dom To Shoot in the three-year-old feature.
“It’s very difficult to get him to ride our horses in Perth as he’s committed to Mr Peters’ horses who are usually the superior horses at home. He’s very loyal to him and that’s understandable,” Casey said.
Casey said Pike had ridden for him in Western Australia but infrequently.
“I’m very happy to have him on,” Casey said.
“I’ve spoken to him and although he hasn’t ridden the horse he said he knew him quite well because he had ridden against him so many times.”
Dom To Shoot, who is by Shooting To Win, is named after West Coast premiership hero Dom Sheed and his feat in kicking the winning goal from the boundary line late in their 2018 grand final win over Collingwood.
Dom To Shoot made his Victorian debut in the C S Hayes Stakes where he produced a fast-finishing fifth behind Tagaloa.
That was his first run since his third in the Group One Kingston Town Stakes behind two star local gallopers in Truly Great and Inspirational Girl.
“We were very happy with his run. He bungled the start from a wide barrier and had to go back a long way,” Casey said.
“He had to make a long sweeping run and he probably peaked with 100 metres to go.
“He’s since had a jump out at Flemington and with the run under his belt he’s ready to run well.
“The form from the Kingston Town Stakes is very good and he’s got a good barrier.”
Casey said they hoped Dom To Shoot ran well enough to gain a wildcard into the All-Star Mile.
“Hopefully he can run in the placings or do enough to catch the eye to get in,” he said.
The autumn in Sydney is all about Group One racing and jockey Tommy Berry is hoping to play a major role.
But he isn’t taking his eye of the premiership prize.
Berry set a goal at the start of the season to improve his consistency and in doing so, make a concerted bid for the Sydney jockeys’ title.
With 65 metropolitan winners, five behind leader and defending champion James McDonald, the crown is still in sight.
“You definitely focus more on the Group Ones but being consistent is a big part of winning those Group Ones as well,” Berry said.
“I have really focused on being very consistent in my riding. That’s where Hugh Bowman and James McDonald have been so successful in the past, they’re just so consistent all year round and that’s something I have failed to be at times in my career.”
Berry was forced to sit out last Saturday due to a careless riding suspension and he is looking forward to returning to Randwick for Sydney’s first Group One races of the year.
He partners favourite Dame Giselle in Saturday’s Surround Stakes (1400m) and Master Of Wine in the Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).
Master Of Wine showed tremendous promise at his first Australian preparation but he mixed his form in the spring, his best efforts a fourth in the Makybe Diva Stakes and fifth in the Turnbull Stakes.
In hindsight, Berry admits he may have contributed to Master Of Wine’s lacklustre preparation by riding him aggressively first up in a high-pressure edition of the Winx Stakes.
“I tried to ride him on the speed and I was caught wide. I rode him to win that race instead of riding him to run well, he is a stayer so he had bigger things in mind,” Berry said.
“Looking back, I probably gutted him a little bit. It took him a few runs to get over that tough, first-up run.”
The Chipping Norton is a different kettle of fish with a small field of nine and no obvious speed.
From the outside gate, Berry will go in with an open mind but he is in no doubt Master Of Wine can restore his reputation this campaign.
“I was very pleased with his trial. He went super and he has definitely come on well since then,” Berry said.
“I’ve ridden him in a few pieces of work and he has really pleased me.”
Berry is sweating on the track remaining no worse than soft for Dame Giselle when she tackles a top field of fillies in the Surround, headed by dual Group One winner Montefilia.
If the filly strikes the right track conditions, Berry believes she can recapture her spring form which delivered wins in three of the four Princess Series races.
“I still think she is up there with the best fillies going around,” Berry said.
“She is going to meet them on Saturday and we’ll find out who the best filly is for the autumn I think.”
No Warwick Farm-based trainer has won the Guy Walter Stakes since the race was named in honour of the late horseman and Matt Smith would dearly love to be the first.
A gifted trainer, Walter had a procession line of top horses including champion Tie The Knot, Streama and Defier but his kindness and generosity towards others have been his biggest legacy.
Smith will saddle up Tricky Gal in Saturday’s renewal of the fillies and mares’ feature and says a victory in honour of his friend and mentor, who died suddenly almost seven years ago, would be a moment to treasure.
“It would be bloody outstanding to win it,” Smith said.
“Guy was a superstar. He mentored a lot of the trainers here. There wouldn’t be many trainers who didn’t run something by him at some stage and he always had plenty of time for everybody.”
Tricky Gal is a $5 chance to deliver the Warwick Farm-based Smith a poignant win.
Immature as a younger horse, Tricky Gal didn’t race until the end of her three-year-old season but she has improved with each preparation.
She graduated to black-type company in the spring, finishing runner-up to Savatiano in the Group Two Hot Danish Stakes and again to Missile Mantra in the Summoned Stakes at Sandown.
Tricky Gal began her latest campaign as she finished her last, closing hard for second to Tailleur in the Triscay Stakes after getting back from a wide draw.
“She is a really good mare, she’s tough, she loves racing. It’s exciting,” Smith said.
“The only thing that beat her last start was the barrier. She could have won that race if she had a good gate.
“Let’s hope we can get that stakes race on the board.”
Walter won the equivalent of Saturday’s race twice when it was known as the Wiggle Quality, firstly with Danni Martine in 2005 and again with Bhandara a year later.