By Ray Hickson
It’s the comeback that trainer Bjorn Baker had his doubts would actually happen but he’s excited to take Group 1 winner Samadoubt back to the races at Randwick on Saturday.
The now seven-year-old hasn’t raced since TAB Everest day in 2019, running a close fourth to Happy Clapper in the Craven Plate, after a breakthrough spring saw him claim the Group 1 Winx Stakes and Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes.
A tendon injury put retirement on the radar but Baker said the gelding was given the time he needed to recover and is happy for him to make his return in the Group 1 $500,000 Heineken Canterbury Strakes (1300m).
“That (retirement) was definitely one of the options. He is sound at the moment and we’re not getting carried away but he is healthy and well and that’s all we can ask for,’’ Baker said.
“I guess he took everyone by surprise but with his subsequent performances he really backed it up.
“It was a great thrill for everyone. But he proved it was no fluke in subsequent runs and in that Hill Stakes Verry Elleegant only just got him on the line.
“He needed a good break. He’s been in pre-training and did plenty of groundwork before he got to the stable so he’s done plenty of work and he’s probably as fit as we can get him first-up.
“Importantly he still looks like he has the zest for racing.”
Samadoubt, $11 with TAB on Wednesday, has won two recent barrier trials in his typically dashing style and Baker said he can’t do a lot more about his fitness without racing him.
Josh Parr takes the ride on Saturday and now it’s a matter of whether Samadoubt can return to his best. Baker certainly hopes so.
“He galloped really well on Tuesday morning, we’re thrilled with him, he looks good and ready to go,’’ Baker said.
“I think with the blinkers on, it’ll be the first time he’s had them on for a year and a half, he’ll know he’s there to run. You never quite know, race day and race pressure is a completely different thing.
“We won’t change anything, we’ll be really positive and hopefully he can put himself up there.”
Nobody missed the first-up run by She’s Ideel in the 1300m Millie Fox two weeks ago and Baker is confident there’s a win in her very soon.
Whether that’s Saturday’s Group 3 $160,000 Sharp Extensive IT Aspiration Quality (1600m) remains to be seen but the Warwick Farm trainer is enthusiastic about her autumn which could go all the way to the Sydney Cup.
She’s Ideel clocked a race best 11.52 (Punter’s Intelligence) for her last 200m in the Millie Fox.
“She gets in with a good weight with 54kg, she’s one of the winners the way the weights are compressed,’’ he said.
Samadoubt wins a trial at Canterbury on February 23
“Up to a mile suits her, it’s not ideal for a lot of horses second-up at a mile but she is one horse that should thrive on it.
“I think she took everyone by surprise first-up and I think she has come back a better horse.”
Baker said the Group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill later this month is the first major target for She’s Ideel, a $5.50 chance on Saturday.
“That’s the ideal race for her but all going well we’d like to get her to the Sydney Cup so at some stage we will have to step her up markedly,’’ he said.
Stablemate Missybeel is the defending Epona champion and also tackles the Aspiration. She hasn’t won since that race last year, Baker said he’s hoping she can improve on some below par recent efforts.
Bjorn Baker on Positive Peace (Wenona Girl): “She was only plain first-up but I think she will be a lot better for that run and 1200m really suits. If she can get back to her best form she’s not out of it.”