By Brad Gray
“I honestly feel this will be his best preparation, by far.”
That is the frank assessment of trainer Michelle Ritchie as she chases down a slot for The Kosciuszko.
Ritchie recently swapped Kembla Grange for Nowra as a training base which makes her horses eligible for the $1.3m country feature on October 13 at Royal Randwick.
“He has settled down and everything he is doing, he is finally doing right. He is a very happy horse,” Ritchie said of the lightly-raced gelding.
“He is seven now and finally grown up. His temperament has changed and he feels a lot stronger. He feels like a new horse.”
Ritchie not only trains Better Not Blue but also owns him outright and rides him in all of his work, and has done so from day dot, so she knows better than anyone how he is progressing ahead of his return.
From the very beginning Ritchie that saw something in the son of Churchill Downs that nobody else did, securing him for just $10,000 as a yearling. Here we are 26 starts later he has amassed $344,375 in prizemoney. As a three-year-old he ran a luckless fourth in the G3 Gold Coast Guineas while a year later ran a narrow second to Ninth Legion at Listed level.
“He just got beat in the Civic Stakes while in a Group Three in Queensland early in his career he got beaten two lengths but really should have won. In the Provincial Championships he qualified two years in a row and ran second in a final,” said Ritchie.
“There’s no doubt he’d be competitive in a Kosciusko. At the very least he deserves to have his name out there.
“We’ll just have to wait and see but if he got in it’d certainly be a thrill. It’s a very exciting concept. It’d be a dream come true if you got to compete in a race like that.”
Better Not Blue hasn’t been sighted at the races since December 2017 due to a number of mishaps.
“He gave his leg a bump at his last start and the way it blew up we thought he had done a suspensory but we had him x-rayed and he only banged it. He had a month off but in his paddock he ran into the side of his shed and wiped his hip out so had to have another month off. It’s been a while since he has raced but he is all good now,” said Ritchie.
Ritchie plans to trial Better Not Blue in the next couple of weeks, before a second trial will have him ready for the races.
“The way it is mapping out I’ll give him two runs in town on a Saturday and then we’ll see how he goes,” she said.
“He has just got to learn to not get too far back, but in his last start he was up on the speed. He has learnt to relax so we can ride him a bit more forward now.”
As for the move, Ritchie couldn’t be happier with the way things have worked out and her small team of horses are thriving “living the farm life”.
“It’s been a big change but it’s been a great change. I bought a place at Berry about three years ago and eventually wanted to train from here when the timing was right,” she explained.
The timing might be right for Blue too.