Racing: Celtic Prince to rule in Cup

By Mike Dillon

Baker bullish about lightly-weighted stayer's prospects of beating New Zealand's best.

File photo / APN
File photo / APN

Sydney-based trainer Bjorn Baker says relative weight is the key to the chances of Celtic Prince in tomorrow's $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup at Ellerslie.

Celtic Prince is one of two Australian-trained stayers in the Cup and has been heavily backed into second favourite behind Who Shot Thebarman.

Fellow Sydney stayer Travolta has been given 59kg topweight, pushing the weights down for all other runners.

"The 52kg - he won't know what's hit him," says Baker of Celtic Prince.

"He's never carried a weight that low - ever."

Celtic Prince has excellent form, 16112, and in recent starts has carried 58kg, 58kg, 55.5kg, 57.5kg, 59kg and 58.5kg. Celtic Prince is New Zealand bred, but has done all his racing in Australia.

Baker says he is a stayer who can sustain a decent finish for an extended period. "He doesn't have what you'd call a fast sprint, but he can keep going through a fairly long finish."

It is difficult to line up the form of our stayers compared with those from Sydney and Melbourne. One pointer is that Baker ran Celtic Prince in the Queensland Derby last winter and rated the horse's chances.

"He finished only seventh, but he got knocked down in running and it was a pretty good effort."

Celtic Prince will be ridden by Sydney-based Brenton Avdulla, who has been on the 4-year-old's back three times this preparation for three wins.

Avdulla was plucked from reasonable obscurity in Victoria by Gai Waterhouse after he had finished second in the Melbourne apprentice premiership in the 2008-09 season.

With steady workmanship, Avdulla has climbed the Australian jockeys' ladder and is strongly sought after.

His father, an Albanian, has dabbled in bookmaking and his mother is Greek.

"I've always had a bit of an opinion of this horse," he told the Herald yesterday.

"He's the sort of horse I thought could probably have placed behind It's A Dundeel in the Derby here in Sydney.

"He's furnished into a nice staying horse and he's right up to listed stayer's class in Australia.

"He's probably better than quite a few of them in this race."

Avdulla rode at Trentham in January, but this will be his first visit to Ellerslie.

Baker's father Murray reports that It's A Dundeel continues to blossom heading into his resuming run in Saturday's A$500,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm.

"He's flying," said Baker, who confirmed that Atlante has "flown through" what looked to be a hard first-up race in Sydney on Saturday in which he finished a close second.

- NZ Herald

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