By Ray Hickson
Co-trainer Adrian Bott has a word of warning for supporters of Premier’s Cup favourite Wolfe – he has no idea how the promising stayer will handle a wet track.
Wolfe is one of the most exciting middle distance horses in training with five wins and a second from six starts but Bott said the prospect of striking heavy ground for the first time is cause for concern.
The five-year-old held the call at $2.90 with TAB on Thursday in a Group 3 $160,000 Iron Jack Premier’s Cup (1900m) that contains a heap of staying talent headed by Sydney Cup winner Shraaoh.
“We will give him his opportunity, it is important he has the run for his campaign,’’ Bott said.
“He will be lining up but it is a little hard to get a gauge on it.
“He might excel in those conditions, gut feel tells me he’s more effective on top of the ground. He has that natural brilliance, what you like to see in staying horses, and I’d hate for that to be dampened by the conditions.
“We’re not trying to protect his record by any means, we have some big targets for him and we are going to learn a bit more about him.’’
Wolfe had his first run in open company when he came off a two month break to post a gritty win in the Premier’s Cup Prelude (1800m) at Randwick two weeks ago.
He’s had some exposure to heavy ground in barrier trials though Bott doesn’t regard those performances as overly flattering.
On the plus side, Bott said both he and Gai Waterhouse are excited about Wolfe’s prospects this spring and a direction, whether it is Sydney for The Metropolitan or Melbourne to chase the Cups, will become clearer this weekend.
“There’s still plenty of upside for him, hopefully he can still show his brilliance,’’ he said.
“He’s had a pretty good foundation, he wasn’t out of work for a long time after his last campaign and there’s still more left in the tank for the spring.
“No doubt he has to improve on what he’s done, this will be his toughest test to date but he has responded on every occasion we’ve asked that bit more of him.’’
Bott has less concern about the Epsom Handicap hopeful Mister Songman’s hopes in the TAB Handicap (1200m) on a wet track though would prefer the meeting to be held on top of the ground.
The gelding resumed from almost eight months off with a solid second on the Kensington track two weeks ago and Bott said there’s plenty more to come from him.
“The 1200m is still short of his best, he’ll be better for the run, we’re looking for another positive performance on the road to the Epsom,’’ he said.
“He has a little bit of form in soft and heavy conditions, I don’t think he’s hopeless on it, but he is more effective on top of the ground.
“His campaign isn’t hanging on a whim, it’d be nice to see him pick up a race such as this.’’
Mister Songman ($6.50) won third-up in his last preparation once he reached 1400m so an extra 100m on his first-up performance is in his favour.
Wolfe wins the Premier's Cup Prelude at Randwick on August 17
If the recently gelded Master Ash doesn’t take his place in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1100m) mark him down for later as Bott’s voice changes stride when he talks about the horse.
Master Ash won the Group 3 Up & Coming Stakes last year then failed to beat a horse home in three subsequent starts resulting in the ultimate gear change.
“I was heartbroken when his form tapered off the way it did because he’s a much better horse than that,’’ he said.
“I think we have been able to resurrect him. He’s returned in great shape, I love everything we’ve seen from him.
“He seems to be a much happier horse, much more settled, I think gelding has been a great procedure for him.’’
But Bott is so confident Master Ash ($21) is in for a good campaign he said some thought will go into whether he kicks off his new career on a potentially heavy track or they mark some time for a drier surface.
“I’d be a lot more confident on top of the ground and you could put aside his recent form and assess him on the early promise he showed,’’ he said.