By Ray Hickson
Tommy Berry wouldn’t put it past exciting colt Ole Kirk to show his quality and kick off 2021 by beating the older horses at Rosehill on Saturday.
The three-year-old is aiming to be the third of his age in the past four years to take out the Group 2 $200,000 Iron Jack Expressway Stakes (1200m) and would emulate Trapeze Artist who won a Golden Rose then took out the weight-for-age feature back in 2018.
The other is defending champion Standout who gave Berry his third win in the Expressway last year after Weary (2015) and Our Boy Malachi (2016).
Berry, currently leading the Sydney jockeys premiership, expects nothing less than a big first-up run from Ole Kirk, though it's far from his grand final, and has seen plenty of positive signs to say it’s on the cards.
“He’s a bit sharper than he was last prep, a bit more switched on, he’s definitely come back stronger,’’ Berry said.
“I can’t fault him at the moment. He definitely has improvement there, he has a long preparation ahead, so he’s not screwed right down.
“But he wouldn’t know how to run a bad race if he tried. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him win but it would surprise me to see him not perform well.”
Ole Kirk, $3.70 with TAB, opened his spring preparation with an eye-catching second behind the flying Anders with 59kg on a heavy track in the Rosebud and endured another brutal contest second-up in the Run To The Rose, again finishing second to Rothfire.
His recent trial was also run at a decent gallop with Berry allowing Ole Kirk to find his feet before brushing home in fourth place.
From barrier one in a race with much less obvious pace that he’s used to Berry hopes he can park the dual Group 1 winning colt in a striking position.
“He can be a little bit slow out of the gates because he gets a bit excited in there so depending on how he jumps will decide where he settles in the run,’’ he said.
“We never ask him to be out of his comfort zone. He’s a bit sharper so he could settle a little handier though knowing that.”
Masked Crusader isn’t quite as reliable as his younger stablemate but Berry is adamant he is a stakes performer in the making so there’s plenty of interest around his return in the 50 Years ATC Members Recognition Handicap (1200m).
A beaten odds-on favourite in all three runs last preparation, the gelding is again in the red ($1.95 with TAB) on the back of an impressive all the way trial win earlier this month.
“He can do that in his trials. He is a horse that can be his own worst enemy at times but he definitely has a lot of ability there,’’ Berry said.
“When he gets it all right he’s very good but when he gets it wrong, or I get it wrong on him which happened once last prep, things can turn bad.
“He’s drawn well and the map looks good for him. Once again he performed well first-up on a wet track last prep and I think he will do the same.”
Ole Kirk runs fourth in a Rosehill trial on January 15
Tommy Berry’s comments on a few other Rosehill rides:
Montana Flash (Race 3, $21): “He was too aggressive (on debut), did everything wrong, he had blinkers on and he didn’t react too well to that. He trialled without the blinkers and he’s going to run without them, we’ll ride him more conservative and he’s better when he gets back and hits the line.”
Shaik (Race 5, $4.40): ”She can go keen in her races so we ride her to be where she’s happy. She will probably settle a bit closer from that draw up in trip but they went way too slow the other day. They walked midrace and sprinted home quick. I felt like she got home really well and wasn’t disappointed with her effort. She maps to get a good run and will enjoy soft ground.”
Mount Popa (Race 8, $5.50): “He took all before him last preparation and has come back well. He’s been nice and sharp in his work. I feel like the distance won’t pose a big problem and he will enjoy the ground whether it is soft or dry.”