By Ray Hickson
There may be the odd nerve or pre-race butterfly but trainer Joe Pride feels no pressure about what faces his star sprinter Eduardo at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The Warwick Farm trainer is like a kid in the days before Christmas as he awaits the Group 1 $2.5m Heineken TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) with a horse he’s rejuvenated and after a devastating last start Group 1 win is happy to say he has the chance to prove himself the world’s best sprinter.
“I can’t shut up about it, I’m just thinking about it all the time,’’ Pride said.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a horse at this level going so well. That in itself, I don’t know if it brings pressure but you walk up to him every day and it’s ‘are you all right boy’.
“Pressure isn’t the word for what I experience with a horse like him, it’s enjoyable.
“I’ve had horses at this level before and when you haven’t got one you miss it and you just want to be back where I am now. I’m mature enough in my training career to appreciate every minute of the journey with this horse.
“It’s a good problem to have. This is the pinnacle of sprinting for the autumn and I can’t wait to get there.”
Eduardo came to Pride, who won the TJ Smith in 2006 with Red Oog, just under a year ago with a reputation as a talented sprinter but one that had lost his way.
In seven starts for the stable the gelding has won four races, including his last start romp in the Group 1 Galaxy two weeks ago, and his only failure came in the TAB Everest last spring.
That’s something he hopes to correct later this year.
“I’m immensely proud of the horse and the team,’’ Pride said.
“Any horse that walks in our stable we like to think that when they walk out we’ve got the best out of them and it looks to be the case with this horse. He’s a lovely horse to have around and the team are enjoying working with him.
“He’s like a metronome. He’s so consistent in everything he does, there’s no variance in the way he eats or walks around in the morning.
“It’s just all consistent behaviour and performance from him and that makes me very happy.”
Though Eduardo is a rising eight-year-old his form this year has been flawless and he’s clearly racing in career best touch.
He outpointed Nature Strip in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) first-up, posting a new track record, then carried top weight of 57kg and blew his Galaxy rivals away.
The barrier draw has swayed market favour into Nature Strip’s corner ($3.80), with Eduardo second elect at $4.80 on Wednesday, but Pride said this week his horse is fast out of the gates and fast to muster while his big rival can be problematic at the start.
Pride still has a healthy respect for Nature Strip but is confident Eduardo can handle anything that’s thrown at him.
“It makes sense of it all to see him do what he did in the Galaxy,’’ Pride said.
“Nature Strip broke the track record that day and we beat him. I’m sure some people still think Nature Strip failed that day but I don’t think he did.
“Winning and losing isn’t always the measurement of performance.”
Nature Strip’s jockey James McDonald is unsurprisingly eager to get his chance to turn the tables on Eduardo.
Eduardo wins the Challenge Stakes at Randwick on March 6
He said he can’t fault the reigning TJ Smith winner since their clash back on March 6 as he strives to join Black Caviar (2011/2013) and Chautauqua (2015-17) as multiple winners of the race.
“He (Eduardo) had all the favours that day, we didn’t get a lot of luck, he only knocked us off the last little bit and six furlongs will suit us better,’’ McDonald said.
“We drew the widest gate, Eduardo had the rail and got all the favours and just beat him. There’s no question we can turn the tables.
“And his form has been franked with Eduardo coming out and running so well.”
McDonald is rapt with drawing barrier five, three places inside Eduardo, and said the six-year-old is a reliable racehorse who will give 100 per cent on Saturday.
“He’ll be late into the gates being barrier five, there are dangers inside and out, but he’ll be up on the speed and he is going really well,’’ he said.
“He always pretty much runs well, if he doesn’t win he’s not too far off them. You know what you’re going to get, he’ll be there giving his all.”