By Ray Hickson
The Kiwi invasion on Sydney’s three-year-old classics has begun early with Group 1 winner Age Of Fire arriving to tackle Saturday’s $1m Randwick Guineas (1600m).
Co-trainer Jamie Richards, who travelled cult galloper Gingernuts to Sydney last year, said the Levin Classic winner could be vulnerable over the mile, and if the track was heavy, but is excited about his prospects in the coming month.
“We are under no illusions as to how hard a task this is, running against Kementari and Pierata and those sorts of horses,’’ Richards said.
“We think he is a pretty serious horse when he gets out to a mile and a quarter and mile and a half.’’
New Zealand-trained three-year-olds have won four of the last seven Rosehill Guineas, Gingernuts being the latest, and the past three editions of the Australian Derby with Mongolian Khan, Tavago and Jon Snow.
Age Of Fire was originally being set for the New Zealand Derby before a Sydney campaign but a minor stable injury forced a change of plan.
TAB has Age Of Fire, to be ridden by Jason Collett, on the $15 line of betting for the Randwick Guineas, and Richards said there’s a chance the mile at Group 1 level in Sydney may be a bit slick.
“He's been getting back and finding the line a bit, he might be run off his feet a bit early over the mile. Once he gets out to 2000m we could ride him a bit handier,’’ he said.
“I don’t know if I'd say he's a soft ground horse, he's definitely better on top of the ground.
“If it got out to heavy he'd be in a bit of trouble and we might have to reschedule things.’’
Age Of Fire was beaten a length and a half at his latest appearance, running third in a 1400m event at Matamata on February 24, but Richards said there was plenty of merit in the run.
“He drew the outside and went back to last and ran home quite nicely on a track that was very hard to make ground,’’ he said.
“Contessa Vanessa, who won the race, was up outside the leader and kicked on, she backed up and won again on the weekend so the form is good.’’
"The big brute wins"
— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) January 13, 2018
Meanwhile, Richards expects his New Zealand Derby runner-up Mongolianconqueror to join Age Of Fire in Sydney for the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 24.
Murray Baker’s Derby winner Vin De Dance is also likely to make the trip.
“It's pretty tough to take getting beaten a nose in the Derby but you've got to move forward,’’ Richards said.
“He appears to have pulled up well. If we are happy with him at the end of the week we'll look to bring him over.’’
And last year’s Rosehill Guineas winner Gingernuts is continuing his recovery from injuries suffered during the Melbourne spring.
Richards said everyone at Te Akau Racing is pleased to have the gelding home but any thoughts of a racing comeback are a long way off.
“He's got a very long road in front of him. We've just got to give him the time and hope that things work out,’’ he said.