Racing: Sires' Produce at the double

Summer Passage tackles the A$1 million Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. Photo / Trish Dunell
Summer Passage tackles the A$1 million Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. Photo / Trish Dunell

The Wexford Stables team know there is a precedent for their tilt at a transtasman Sires' Produce double this weekend.

The Matamata training operation won the Sires' Produce Stakes in Sydney and the Ellerslie Sires' Produce Stakes on the same day in 1998.

Dave and Paul O'Sullivan produced Alf, who was Eric Watson's first racehorse, to win at Randwick while Zola won the Ellerslie feature, now known as the Sistema Stakes.

The current Wexford trainers, Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott, are seeking a slightly different but equally prestigious juvenile group one double on Saturday.

Summer Passage, who has already won the 1200m Sistema Stakes, tackles the A$1 million Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick, less than two hours after Princess Rihanna and Nothin' On Me represent the stable in the $225,000 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni.

It is rare for a New Zealand horse to even start in a group one juvenile race in Sydney and Summer Passage will be the first New Zealand-trained horse to contest the Sydney Sires' since Alf.

However, Summer Passage is a true international product and is returning to his country of birth. The Australian-bred Snitzel colt, who cost A$800,000 at the 2016 Sydney Easter yearling sale, is trained at Matamata but is owned in Hong Kong by Eugene Chuang, under the Hermitage Thoroughbreds banner.

Summer Passage was a convincing winner of the Sistema Stakes, to bring his record to two wins and a second from three starts and has been kept safe in the Australian markets, opening as fourth favourite for the Sires' with tab.com.au, behind the Golden Slipper placegetters Frolic, Tulip and Menari.

"This will be a step up for him [Summer Passage] but we know he can gallop," said Scott, who is looking after Summer Passage in Sydney. "His New Zealand form has been encouraging and we had to have a go.

"He came over yesterday [Tuesday] morning and he seems to have handled the travelling well. He is drinking and eating and looked bright when he had a canter this morning.

"He's a happy horse and still on the way up, has the right jockey on and has form on right-handed tracks, so he ticks a few boxes."

There has been plenty of rain in Sydney this month and the Randwick track was rated as a slow 6 yesterday.

Summer Passage has yet to race on a track rated as worse than dead but Scott will not be overly concerned if the track remains in the soft range.

"They are forecast to get more rain tomorrow and we don't want a heavy track but we know he can handle a bit of give in the track and he has seemed adept when he has worked on slow ground. They haven't raced at Randwick for six weeks. The track was in incredibly good condition when we looked at it yesterday."

Summer Passage will be ridden by Hong Kong-based jockey Zac Purton, who won the Sires' Produce last year on Yankee Rose, and also in 2006.

Another Hong Kong rider, Derek Leung, will ride Princess Rihanna at Awapuni.

Princess Rihanna is also owned in Hong Kong and Leung spent part of his apprenticeship with Scott and O'Sullivan. "Derek is going really well in Hong Kong and won two races at Sha Tin last Sunday," Scott said.

Princess Rihanna won on debut and has run fourth in each of her four subsequent starts, all in good company. She was placed in the Karaka Million and Matamata Breeders' before hitting the line well when fourth in the Sistema.

Nothin' On Me ran fifth in the Matamata Breeders' at her last start while stablemate Charles Street is an obvious chance in the group three Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni, after finishing second in the Avondale Guineas and sixth in the New Zealand Derby.

- NZ Herald

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