By Ray Hickson
Champion jockey Glen Boss has made an artform out of latching on to an emerging three-year-old when it comes to what he calls racing’s “fifth major” – Saturday’s Group 1 $1.5m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m).
Back in 1996 Boss first etched his name onto the Doncaster honour roll, on Sprint By for Gai Waterhouse, and he’s done it six more times in the years since then.
He says it’s no coincidence that the past five have been on three-year-olds – Brutal last year, Kermadec (2015), Triple Honour (2008), Haradasun (2007) and Racing To Win (2006) – and he’s aiming to add Brandenburg to that illustrious list at Randwick this weekend.
“They fly under the radar, a lot of them beat the handicapper, and they all run well,’’ Boss said.
“I’ve noticed, in history, even some long shots run well because they have no weight.
“With 50.5kg Brandenburg has to run well.’’
The John Sargent-trained colt has the type of form line that Boss says makes him a serious Doncaster player and as the $6.50 TAB favourite the market seems to agree.
He scored a shock first-up win in the Hobartville Stakes (1400m) then proved it was no fluke running third in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) behind Shadow Hero and Microphone.
Then came the Boss litmus test and Brandenburg filled him with confidence as he was beaten 1.7 lengths by Dreamforce in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m), a race four of his five three-year-old winners have contested on the way through.
“I said to Sarge ‘mate you’ve got to run him (in the Ryder), it’s always the best form race’,’’ Boss said.
“I wouldn’t be expecting to beat those horses at weight-for-age but if he runs within a couple of lengths and runs well it basically says you’re just about the winner of the Doncaster.
“To his credit he ran better than I expected.’’
Boss said the Ryder showed him just how far Brandenburg has come since he rode him into second place in the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) back in October.
“They absolutely crawled that day and he was an unruly type of horse,’’ he said.
“He didn’t have a race pattern, he was a bit aggressive so Sarge just asked me to right him quiet and teach him to settle.
“They cantered and came home in land speed record and he ripped home. I got off and said ‘Sarge this is a Group 1 horse’.
“His racing pattern is better now, he’s got a bit more tactical. Rachel (King) sat up on the speed and he won and the other day I box seated and he ran well. That’s going to help me out a lot.’’
If Boss can make it eight Doncasters on Saturday he’ll complete the Epsom-Doncaster double in the same season having claimed the Epsom on Kolding back in October.
It’s easy to forget Boss also won the TAB Everest and Golden Eagle in the spring and while those races carried significant riches it’s clear the Doncaster is a special race to him and one he’ll never stop wanting to win.
“It’s a wonderful race to win and when I won it back on Sprint By for Gai it basically got my riding career on an upward spiral,’’ he said.
“It’s almost like the Player’s Championships, they always say it’s the fifth major.
“That’s what the Doncaster is, it’s our biggest mile handicap in Australia and only good horses win it. You don’t see many flukes in the race.’’
Brandeburg runs fourth in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill
While the name Glen Boss is all over the Doncaster, Saturday’s Group 1 $1.25m TAB TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) is one race he’s yet to win and he’s confident he has a live chance in outstanding filly Loving Gaby.
The dual Group 1 winning filly is no stranger to Randwick, she was placed in both the Sires’ and Champagne last autumn, and Boss isn’t at all concerned about drawing the outside alley despite it being a field worthy of an Everest.
Loving Gaby returns to Sydney with that dominant Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) win to her credit and Boss laid a big rap on her after riding her in work on Tuesday.
“She’s a serious weapon. She’s built like a four-year-old colt, she is a weapon,’’ he said.
“I was hoping to draw from six to 10 but overall I’m pretty happy about the draw.
“She has the ability to be ridden anywhere, so I can come out and watch what unfolds underneath me and find my spot.
“This has to be one of the best races of the whole season. Chris’s horse (Nature Strip) has drawn one and that’s not ideal for him.
“Vegadaze is fast and he’s drawn 10 so he’s going to come across with Redzel so there’s going to be some pressure in the first furlong.’’
Loving Gaby opened $6 with TAB as she attempts to be the first filly since Melito in 2010 to win the autumn sprint grand final.