Hall of Fame trainer Murray Baker loves preparing staying three-year-olds and the veteran horseman sent out his fifth winner of the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) when Quick Thinker proved too strong for his rivals at Rosehill yesterday.
Confined to barracks under Covid-19 restrictions like the rest of New Zealand, Baker watched his latest Tulloch Stakes winner from the confines of his Cambridge lounge, with the son of So You Think saddled by Stephen McLean, foreman for his son Bjorn.
"He won well I thought," Baker said. "He went to the line well and he is improving.
"He was beaten by two top-class fillies last start in Funstar and Probabeel.
"He will back up into the Derby [Group 1, 2400m] next week. You always wonder if they can run the 2400m and not many horses can, but he will have his chance and he plugs on well."
Quick Thinker is raced by OTI Racing, who have enjoyed good success with Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman.
While Baker believes Quick Thinker will perform well at Randwick next week, particularly if there is give in the ground, he acknowledges the horse has an affinity with Rosehill.
"He certainly likes Rosehill," he said. "He won the Ming Dynasty [Group 3, 1400m] there in the spring and was good in the Phar Lap Stakes [Group 2, 1500m] last start. He doesn't seem to mind a drop of rain and Randwick can get pretty wet."
Baker gave credit to travelling foreperson Aliesha Legg, who returned to New Zealand earlier this week when New Zealand announced it was going into lockdown.
"Aliesha has done a great job with this horse. We got him swimming as well, just to try and get him a bit fitter and he was a little bit behind the eight ball.
"Unfortunately, she had to come home on Wednesday for the lockdown, so Bjorn's staff took him over, but she did all the work and got him a bit fitter."
Quick Thinker was ridden by ex-pat Kiwi jockey James McDonald who had a big day, winning no less than four of the feature races.
McDonald was aboard star Kiwi stayer Verry Elleegant who produced a commanding performance to win the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) for leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller.
Punters who had installed the Kiwi mare as a hot favourite were given some anxious moments as Brenton Avedulla took off on Dancetera at the 1000m mark, going several lengths clear, and with a handy margin as they turned for home.
But McDonald loomed up in the straight on Verry Elleegant as the tearaway tired, and then kicked clear to win by the best part of five lengths from Mustajeer and Avilius.
Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards produced Karaka Millions Classic winner Probabeel in the next, the Group 1 Vinestar Stud Stakes, and the filly's jockey Kieran McEvoy chose to move forward early in the race, to stay close to star Aussie filly Funstar, the race favourite.
Probabeel tracked Funstar into the straight, peeling off the back to storm home on the outside but came up short to deserved winner Shout The Bar, who was rated well in front by, that man again, McDonald.
McDonald's also guided another New Zealand-bred Night's Watch to win the Group 3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m).
The six-year-old settled near the rear for McDonald, who was happy to bide his time before pinching runs along the inside and surging late to score by a long head over Aliferous.
- NZ Racing Desk