Racing: Slow footing threatens NZ challenge

By Mike Dillon

A slow Gold Coast track will seriously undermine the chances of New Zealand headliners, Shez Sinsational, Artistic and Durham Town in their Queensland seasonal debut tomorrow.

The remarkable amount of rain experienced by southeastern Queensland in recent weeks had the Gold Coast racetrack yesterday as an official slow (7) rating and Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie said it certainly wasn't better than that.

"I galloped Artistic [racing there as Miss Artistic] this morning and the track was close to heavy. It was waterlogged and given how much rain it's taken and how much has soaked in, I'd say there is unlikely to be any great improvement for Saturday."

The weather on the Gold Coast yesterday was beautifully fine and warm. A storm is predicted today, but history tells you those can be very unpredictable.

Artistic tackles the A$125,000 Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m), Shez Sinsational takes on the $300,000 Hollindale Cup (1800m) and Durham Town is seeking desperately a change of luck in the 1300m A$175,000 Prime Minister's Cup.

Shez Sinsational and Durham Town would definitely prefer a better track than they are likely to strike. Artistic is a bit better than the other pair when there is rain around, but might struggle for different reasons.

Ritchie says he has been very gentle on the filly in advance of a three-race fillies' series and wonders if the New Zealand Oaks winner might just lack sufficient fitness.

"It's very difficult to peak a filly twice for group one racing and for that reason I've been very light on her on the track since she arrived here. I've done a lot of walking with her and she might just be found out late in the race.

"She certainly lacks the fitness to take off early with her run, so the tempo of the race will be very important to her."

Artistic has drawn slightly awkwardly in No 11 and will be ridden by Chris Munce.

Former New Zealand jockey Damian Browne will ride Durham Town for the first time.

Co-trainer Donna Logan accompanied the classy sprinter to Australia and says she couldn't believe how well he settled into his new surroundings.

"You couldn't ask for better," said Logan, who is now back in New Zealand. Dean Logan, now looking after Durham Town, said yesterday the camp can only hope the track will improve dramatically.

"He won that Darley Plate on a slow track at Ellerslie, but you wouldn't want it to be worse than that, or even as bad for a race like this."

Opie Bosson has been flown down from Singapore to ride Shez Sinsational, replacing an unavailable James McDonald.

Trainer Allan Sharrock said first the No 13 barrier draw is a major then the slow track will be no assist.

"It's a shame to get a combination like that in her first run this trip."

But Shez Sinsational has such class that if she can get a grip on the surface and has any luck in running she could still win.

- NZ Herald

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