Racing: Xtravagant eyes Straddie

By Mike Dillon

A decision to race Xtravagant in the A$1.5 million Stradbroke in Brisbane next month, after his easy win at Te Rapa on Saturday, must be made by tomorrow. Photo / Trish Dunell
A decision to race Xtravagant in the A$1.5 million Stradbroke in Brisbane next month, after his easy win at Te Rapa on Saturday, must be made by tomorrow. Photo / Trish Dunell

Tomorrow is the deadline for the yes-no decision on Xtravagant tackling the A$1.5 million Stradbroke in Brisbane on June 11.

There may be a slight leaning towards the exciting colt now having a break, but tomorrow will tell.

Temptation to tackle Queensland's famous sprint must be rife in the ownership syndicate, but much is at stake, although Xtravagant would appear to have the Champion 3-Year-Old spot safely in the bag without further venturing to Australia.

In 10 starts, Xtravagant blitzed rival 3-year-olds in the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton by an untouched 8 lengths and beat the older horses by eight lengths in the group one NRM Sprint at Te Rapa in February, running 1400m in 1.21.92 on a dead 4 track.

Saturday's runaway group three victory in the Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders Stakes at Te Rapa sits nicely at the end of the season if a decision is to turn away from Queensland.

The Stradbroke is a notoriously difficult race to win.

It comes at the end of Australia's major carnivals when horses are fit and hard. It is almost always run at breakneck, no-quarter-asked speed, which is why Rough Habit was able to win it back-to-back in 1991-92.

The Straddie, as it's known, is the survival of the fittest and toughest. Sir Basil stopped the clock at 1.20.7 for the 1400m in 2005 and four years earlier Crawl took 1.20.5.

In the 1990s, Toledo went an electric 1.20.2 in 1998 and three years earlier Rouslan ran 1.20.8.

Xtravagant can run time - his 1.8.68 1200m on Saturday is the fasting Breeders Stakes winning time since 1972 - but how much pace would be allowed in a Stradbroke?

Interestingly, we saw something a bit fresh on Saturday, the colt settled into a cozy trail behind the speed and exploded past the leaders on the home bend.

A Stradbroke run like that - he drew barrier two on Saturday - would put him right in contention.

It is impossible to overstate the enormous job done on Xtravagant by co-trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards.

The colt is a gross type, had not raced for eight weeks nor had he been given a barrier trial. The knife-edge the pair of horseman had to tread to have him ready for Saturday was absolute brilliance.

If someone wanted to mention Xtravagant was getting tired on Saturday, come up with a horse that has run 1200m in a tick over 1.8 that isn't tired.

Yes, Fascination Street ran a touch quicker in the opening race, but she is a battle-hardened 5-year-old veteran of 22 races and that type of competitor can run faster than 3-year-olds. And, apart from having first use of the track, she had an absolute burner in Goldminer setting up the tempo for her.

It was excellent racing at Te Rapa on Saturday. Although some level of rain would be to the advantage of many, long may we have decent tracks and similar racing until the real winter sets in.

- NZ Herald

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