Racing: Trainer remains hopeful

By James Graham

Sacred Falls has taken all before him this season and the odds say his luck should continue at Riccarton tomorrow.
Sacred Falls has taken all before him this season and the odds say his luck should continue at Riccarton tomorrow.

TAB bookies will have you believe Sacred Falls needs only to turn up at Riccarton to win the $400,000 New Zealand Guineas (1600m) tomorrow.

But as much as he respects the hype around the unbeaten Cambridge colt, rival trainer Jason Bridgman is far from overawed by this week's $1.65 quote.

Bridgman believes either of his value runners Warhorse ($8.50) and Irish Rebel ($10) can upset the Tony Pike/Mark Donaghue-trained marquee act.

His second-string Rock 'n' Pop upstaged stablemate Burgundy to win last year's event after the even-money elect stuttered into sixth, the victim of a temporary respiratory ailment.

"I know as good as anyone that there are no certainties in racing," said Bridgman.

Although Sacred Falls left Warhorse more than four lengths in his dust in their last meeting, the James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on October 22, Bridgman says the General Nediym colt had two credible excuses.

"He was never really comfortable on the surface and never got race room locked in on the fence the whole way," said Bridgman.

"He's a horse who needs to get out in the open to let down so combined with being uncomfortable in the ground we just ruled a line through the run."

Bridgman can't fault the horse's condition in the interim.

"On the positive side of it he'scome through it 100 per cent. He didn't have a hard run and israring to go for the Guineas."

Bridgman's only concern with Warhorse, who races with an extravagantly high head-action, is that he might be suspect at tomorrow's 1600m.

He's already ruled out any hope of the brilliant colt progressing towards the New Zealand Derby (2400m), instead focusing on shorter targets from Te Akau's Singapore base.

"The biggest query with him is that he's stepping up to the mile but in his work and everything else he looks a million dollars and if he runs the trip and has a good run he's got to be a chance.

"If he's ever going to get the trip it's the first time he does it. I can't fault him going into it, so barring a rough trip, he'll have no excuse, if he doesn't stay a mile."

Irish Rebel returns to the top level straight off a fresh-up second in his campaign opener in modest R75 company at Hastings over 1400m on October 25.

The Danehill Dancer colt, ridden by Hayden Tinsley for the first time, is primed to give Sacred Falls the toughest test of his limited career.

Last term he was group-placed behind Warhorse in the Eclipse Stakes at Ellerslie and a late-closing fourth in the Manawatu Sires Produce, in which Warhorse ran third.

Bridgman also believes he's one of the best suited to the 1600m.

"He's a horse I think will end up a Derby horse," said Bridgman. "One prep run is also adequate given that he is a staying type of horse - he'll need to be sharp enough for a mile.

"Good ground, big track, second-up over a mile will suit him absolutely down to the ground. His work was first-class this week and I can't fault him condition-wise.

"He's also probably the only [North Island] horse in the race who Sacred Falls hasn't met. But he didn't do anything wrong at two and with the right kind of run he'll be right in it."

In the support feature, the Metropolitan Trophy (2500m), the in-form northern raider Miss Isle gives Cambridge trainer Frank Ritchie a chance to close in on his second New Zealand Cup in three years.

Ritchie won the 2010 Cup with Showcause, who was undone by a heavy track when defending his crown last year, finishing sixth.

The traditional Cup lead-up tomorrow is Miss Isle's biggest assignment so far, but she gave a hint she was up to this level when a close fourth in the listed NZ St Leger (2500m) in March.

She's clearly come back this campaign even stronger, as evidenced by her winning middle-distance double early in her five-year-old campaign, including a brave win over later Ellerslie winner Annie Higgins.

In a lose futures market for the Cup, Miss Isle was a $10 quote yesterday, behind Spiro, ($5), Blood Brotha ($7) and Marea Alta ($8).

- NZ Herald

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