Canberra trainer Matt Dale hopes to see Bitburg return to his best three-year-old form when the sprinter resumes at Wagga on Tuesday.
Dale has also nominated Bitburg for Wednesday's Warwick Farm meeting but is more likely to kick off the four-year-old's campaign in the Wagga Scamper (1000m) on Tuesday: "At this stage I think he'll be running at Wagga," said Dale. "He has 63.5kg in the Warwick Farm race (a Benchmark 67 Hcp), which is one reason I'm leaning to the Wagga race."
Bitburg has won five of his 10 starts and some of his defeats were in strong races won by the likes of crack sprinters Hellbent and Spieth. Bitburg kicked off his racing career in mid-2015 with three straight wins by clear margins - at Canberra by 3.8 lengths, Goulburn by 1.5 lengths and again at Canberra by 2.8 lengths. Dale then gave Bitburg a break and he resumed at Rosehill on November 21, 2015 to record his fourth straight victory.
Bitburg suffered his first defeat when seventh, beaten just under two lengths, behind Lady Sniper in the $250,000 Inglis Sprint at Randwick in December, 2015.
Left: Bitburg - should prove hard to beat in the Wagga Scamper on Tuesday. Image by - Steve Hart Photographics
Bitburg also tackled the $250,000 Inglis Dash down the Flemington straight last January but he faded to finish ninth of 14 behind Hellbent. The gelding struggled in his first two starts last preparation in mid-2016 before bouncing back to win at Canberra at his most recent appearance back in July.
"He just didn't come up last prep even though he did win at Canberra," said Dale. "He just wasn't quite right so we decided to pull the pin and start again with a clean slate."
Bitburg showed he was on target for a strong first-up effort with a 7.5 length win in a 900m barrier trial at Canberra on January 6, running 52.92.
"He's trialled well and hopefully he's on track to get back to his best form. At this stage, I want to see how he returns this campaign before making any further plans for him."
Although Bitburg kicked off his career in similar fashion to Dale's top sprinter Fell Swoop, the trainer was never under any illusion that he had another star in his stable.
"We placed Bitburg very well early on when he won his first four races and then he was competitive in some pretty hot races against horses like Hellbent and Spieth," said Dale. "But I always knew there was a big gap between him and Fell Swoop."
Dale said Fell Swoop was coming along well for another Melbourne campaign, kicking off with the Group One Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on February 18. Bitburg, to be ridden by Brendan Ward, goes into Tuesday's race with a perfect record over 1000m, winning all three of his previous starts over that trip.
Tuesday's Wagga Scamper has drawn together a competitive 11-horse field with Albury trainer Brett Cavanough having mixed luck with the barrier draw for his two runners - Just A Bullet and Centauro. Topweight Just A Bullet, second-up on Tuesday, drew the outside gate of 11 while Centauro, first-up since September, drew the rails. Apprentice Chelsea MacFarlane, who claims 2kg, will partner Just A Bullet while Mathew Cahill rides Centauro.
Trainers are reminded that with hot temperatures predicted for Wagga on Tuesday, Level 2 of the Racing NSW Hot Weather Policy will be invoked. The following processes will be implemented:
- Pre-parade will be shortened - Additional veterinary staff will be employed - Ice water machine and extra hoses will be in the mounting enclosure and horse stall area
Stewards advise that horses are still required to be on course 90 minutes before the scheduled starting time of each race to allow time to acclimatise and settle in after travelling.