Gold Coast trainer Trevor Whittington is delighted with the way his rejuvenated mare They Call Me Rose has turned her form around this preparation but admits a tricky barrier draw has made things a bit tough for her at Ballina on Friday.
Winner of three of her past six starts, They Call Me Rose will gear up for a crack at next month’s Grafton carnival when she steps out in Friday’s Ballina Food & Wine Festival Benchmark 64 Hcp (1400m).
Whittington was downcast when the mare drew one of the outside gates in the 14-horse field.
“I know she’ll probably start one of the favourites in the race, but that outside gate and her 58.5kg make it a bit tough for her,” he said. “But I still think she’ll run well and she does need to run on Friday as I’m aiming her for the Mother’s Gift at Grafton on July 12.”
The Mother’s Gift, for fillies and mares over 1400m, is worth $50,000 and is run on Grafton Cup Day.
They Call Me Rose has been leading in her races and the plan is to roll forward again on Friday, despite the awkward gate.
“We’ve tried riding her back before and it hasn’t worked,” Whittington said.
Whittington, who these days just trains a couple of horses on the Gold Coast, has been able to get the best out of the Duporth mare who had won just one race - at Coffs Harbour in 2016 - when she joined his stable about 12 months ago.
Her first few runs for Whittington were poor, but she has turned things around in recent months. Her past nine starts have yielded four wins and two seconds, taking her overall record to five wins and 13 placings from 38 starts.
“When I first got her last year her first few runs were very ordinary,” Whittington said. “There didn’t appear to be anything wrong with her, but she had been hitting her joints, which obviously didn’t help. I decided to give her a good spell and when she came back she was a completely different mare.
“Her only recent poor run was on a heavy 8 at the Gold Coast (three runs back) and I really don’t think she handles heavy tracks. But tracks in the soft range are ideal for her.”
She should get those ideal track conditions on Friday with Ballina rated a soft 6 on Thursday.
They Call Me Rose has been particularly effective at Grafton in recent months, with three wins and a second from her past four runs there. Her record at Ballina is not so good – unplaced at her two previous runs there – but Whittington is not too concerned about that statistic.
“She does love it at Grafton – that’s why I think the Mother’s Gift will be a nice race for her – but I’m not too concerned about her previous Ballina failures as I simply think she just wasn’t going well enough at the time.”
A couple of They Call Me Rose’s main rivals at Ballina drew much better. Casino galloper Phast Lad drew gate five, and Goulburn-trained four-year-old Only Choice came up with barrier six.
Trained by Tom Pratt at Casino, Phast Lad is looking to improve on his solid record at Ballina where he has won three times – twice over the 1400m trip.
The six-year-old looks hard to beat after his two good runs back from a spell – a first-up third over 1106m at Grafton on April 30 and another third over 1200m at Casino on May 25.
Only Choice, trained by Kurt Goldman at Goulburn, is coming off two recent strong efforts at the Gold Coast. He finished second to Honour’n’strength in a Benchmark 65 Hcp (1400m) on June 2 then scored in a Class 2 Hcp (1400m) on June 16.
Beaudesert galloper Sunset Hills, who drew the inside gate, could be a big improver in Friday’s race. He has won his only two previous runs over the Ballina 1400m and relishes soft ground.
The rail for Friday’s nine-race program will be in the true position.