By Ray Hickson
Second to Rebel Dane in 2015, second to Takedown in 2016, second to Redzel in 2017 – will it be Ball Of Muscle’s year to finally claim a win in The Shorts?
If it is, the often under-rated eight-year-old will have to beat a quartet of Everest contenders but trainer Joe Pride says it’s well within his powers.
Ball Of Muscle’s first-up win at Caulfield showed he can be hard to get past and Pride has thrown out a warning to those who want to try to stop him finding the lead and running his own race.
“He’s a very fast horse, when he wants to lead they can’t lead him,’’ Pride said.
“I’m not hellbent on leading for the sake of it, Glyn (Schofield) is an accomplished jockey who understands this horse well, and if they are desperate to lead I guess they can but I think they will bring themselves undone.
“I hear they want to be a bit more aggressive with Invincible Star.
"I watched (the Concorde) the other day and I thought she was going about as fast as she could go, she’d want to go quicker than that to lead Ball Of Muscle.’’
Pride said there is upside in the gelding’s fitness going into the Group 2 $200,000 The Shorts (1100m).
A year ago he started $10 when runner-up to Redzel in the Shorts and was just better than that quote ($9.50) on Thursday behind the inaugural Everest winner.
It’s easy to forget Ball Of Muscle has been competitive with most of the Everest runners in the past 12 months and he ran a close third in the Sydney Stakes behind In Her Time on Everest Day.
“He has an impressive record over 1100m and in this race. I’m sure he’ll run really well,’’ Pride said.
“He’s always raced well in this grade and I think I’ve got him spot on.
“He improves with racing but I would think he’d have less improvement in him than a Brave Smash (who ran third behind him at Caulfield) whose grand final is a month away.
Ball of Muscle! The veteran winds back the clock and wins race 8 at Caulfield.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) September 1, 2018
“When horses get to this age you just try to pick off wins with them, for that reason you’ve got to be ready wherever you are in the preparation.’’
Engimatic galloper Gamblestown continues to run impressive sectionals in his races this time in and Pride is hoping for a few favours in the Shoot Out Mile (1600m) on Saturday where he’s a $17 chance with TAB.
Winless since November 2015, Gamblestown was beaten less than a length by Goodfella over the Randwick mile two weeks ago running the third fastest last 600m of 34.10 and second fastest last 200m of 11.35 (Punters Intel).
Pride said the horse is clearly going well but his racing style has a frustratingly low percentage.
“He gives away stupid head starts. You watch his runs and they have ‘back me next time’ all over them but it turns out like Groundhog Day,’’ he said.
“He just has to pull out something extra and just needs something to go his way.’’