By Ray Hickson
Aegon is the hunted not the hunter this time around and that’s playing on co-trainer Andrew Forsman’s mind as his star three-year-old aims to keep his unbeaten record intact at Randwick on Saturday.
After the gelding’s dashing Hobartville Stakes win two weeks ago many wondered how he’d be beaten in the Group 1 $1m Mostyn Copper Randwick Guineas (1600m).
Forsman, who trains with NZ genius Murray Baker, said Aegon hasn’t gone backwards since his fifth win but is wary he now comes with a target on his back having proven himself in Sydney.
“It was nice coming in a touch of the underdog in the Hobartville, it’s a little bit of an uncomfortable position now but the horse is well and that’s the main thing,’’ Forsman said.
“I’d rather be $2 favourite than a $20 chance. All going well if he can hold that form he’s going to be very hard to beat. You need things to go right and you need the right run at the right time.
“With his pattern of racing he’s always going to leave himself with a bit of work to do and if you don’t get the breaks at the right time it can make it awkward.”
Hugh Bowman had no trouble finding the gaps when Aegon raced away at his Sydney debut, clocking a last 600m of 33.76 which was two lengths better than his rivals, and a clear best last 200m of 11.49 (Punter's Intelligence).
Aegon, $2.30 with TAB on Wednesday, is already a two time winner at 1600m, including the Group 1 2000 Guineas back in November, and Forsman said the horse is more mature now and should be able to handle the two week back up.
“He had his first decent hit out since the Hobartville on Tuesday morning and he went really well,’’ he said.
“Going into this race I don’t think (two weeks) is too much of an issue, it’s how he copes with this and then the next month or so will be the test for him.”
What the next month looks like could well be shaped by Aegon’s Randwick Guineas performance – he’s currently favourite with TAB for the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m on March 20), the Group 1 Star Doncaster Mile (1600m on April 3) and the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m on April 3).
Forsman is enjoying the ride Aegon is taking him on not only as a trainer but as a part-owner having learned a lesson after opting out of staying in the ownership of a previous purchase – 2017 Australian Derby winner Jon Snow.
“I remember when I bought Jon Snow, they asked me if I wanted to stay in I said no,’’ Forsman said.
“I was hardly going to say no this time and luckily it has worked out all right.
“An Australian Group 1 would be brilliant. Because he’s a gelding it takes a lot of pressure off, we can place him how we want and don’t have to run him in stallion type races.
“If we look after him we have a few years of good racing ahead of us.”
An interested onlooker at Aegon’s first local start was trainer John O’Shea. His major Derby hope Lion’s Roar also contested the Hobartville and ran a creditable fifth.
O’Shea said he’s kept a close watch on Aegon’s New Zealand wins and wasn’t surprised to see him perform so impressively because to his eye he’d had a head start.
“If you looked in the yard he was the horse that had a run at a mile and freshened back to 1400m he was ready,’’ O’Shea said.
Aegon wins the Hobartville Stakes at Rosehill on February 20
“He was glistening in the coat whereas a lot of the Sydney horses were a bit big, a bit fresh, sweated up in the enclosure, indicative they were improving types.
“There’s no doubting the ability of Aegon but I thought he was the fit horse on the day.”
Lion’s Roar, $17 with TAB on Saturday and $15 in the Derby, has three lengths to make up on Aegon but O’Shea said he’s made the necessary improvement to start to put himself in the mix for races like the Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby.
“He’ll make good improvement from the other day and he loves Randwick, it’s a big wide open track for him,’’ he said.
“Our fellow acquitted himself very well the other day and he was open to significant improvement, he seems to have made it on the strength of his work.
“He’s chugging along nicely and third-up he is going to be very hard to beat but in saying that on Saturday he’s not without a chance as well.”