By Ray Hickson
Irish galloper Success Days is thriving in Sydney as he marks time for a showdown with Winx in next month’s Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
The grey had his first stroll around Canterbury Park on Tuesday morning, cantering a couple of laps of the polytrack and taking in the surrounds.
Trainer Ken Condon has sent Stephen McCarthy, a former amateur rider and long-time assistant to champion Irish trainer John Mulhern, to Sydney to look after Success Days and McCarthy said he couldn’t be in better shape.
“It was a long trip over but he took it well,’’ McCarthy said.
“He spent 16 days in Newmarket before he travelled and he hadn’t see another horse until he arrived here.
“He lost 10-12kg which is kind of the norm. He’s putting it back on quickly and by the weekend he should be back to where he was.’’
McCarthy, who is about to go out on his own as a trainer, has worked for Condon for about a year as an assistant and knows Success Days as well as anyone.
Success Days with track rider Stephen McCarthy after his first look around Canterbury pic.twitter.com/PTV1ZIrj0F
— The Championships (@ChampionshipsRR) March 26, 2018
The trip to Sydney for The Championships was the six-year-old’s first time on a plane and out of his comfort zone but he said the horse is handling it like a seasoned traveller.
“You don’t know what to expect when you take a horse out of an environment that they’ve been in all their life,’’ McCarthy said.
“This is fantastic for him, he’s getting a proper sun on his back. He’s taken it all in his stride and you couldn’t have a better guy to go travelling with.
“It was a bit of a gamble to come and try it. There were a couple of races in Ireland we could have stayed for but we said ‘to hell with it, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to have a go at it’.’’
It’s no small task to tackle Winx in any race but McCarthy doesn’t seem too fazed – he said even if Success Days isn’t good enough to trouble the champ there’s $755,000 for second and $395,000 for third up for grabs.
With the job ahead in mind we asked McCarthy to help shed some light on what Australian punters can expect from Success Days.
He said the grey is an expert front-runner who loves soft ground and races best on the fresh side.
And he advises that Success Days’ last two starts, in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot and Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, be overlooked.
In his last “fresh’’ appearance he was run down late by Johannes Vermeer in the Group 3 Volvo International at The Curragh in July before winning the Group 2 York Stakes.
"He’s very good fresh and his first couple are his best runs. He burns out very quick,’’ he said.
“He loves to get on with it. He’s a funny type of horse.
“To follow him you don’t think he’s going very quick, he looks like he’s doing it in slow motion, especially in soft ground and he just seems to nail horses trying to follow them.
“He can go a good gallop and is a proper mile and a quarter horse. I know Winx enjoys a bit of cut as well but I can’t emphasise how much he likes it soft.’’
Success Days will spend the next 10 days doing mainly canter work and will only have one, perhaps two, serious gallops prior to his Sydney debut.
“Prior to leaving Newmarket it was a case of put him in the microwave and he’s ready to run. One nice bit of work and he should be ready to rock,’’ McCarthy said.
It’s likely that Hong Kong champion Joao Moreira, ironically the last jockey to be beaten on Winx, will ride Success Days in the Queen Elizabeth.
He’s also being sought to ride Japanese stayer Prestwick in the Group 1 $2m Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m) on the same day.
Prestwick was out at Canterbury on Tuesday morning and he is really starting to step up his work with a solid hitout on the course proper while fellow Japanese galloper Danon Liberty, with the Darren Weir yard, did mainly light exercise.