By Ray Hickson
It would take an exceptional performance from smart filly Probabeel at Rosehill on Saturday to force trainer Jamie Richards to deviate from the plan to tackle next month’s Group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes.
The Karaka Million winner is nominated for the Slipper but Richards said the plan has always been to head to the Championships via the Group 2 $200,000 Harrolds Magic Night Stakes (1200m) where she'll jump from near the outside.
But that's something she has recent experience with.
“I think she’s a pretty exciting filly,’’ Richards said.
“Not often do you get a horse that draws the outside at Ellerslie and puts a space on them like she did so that’s a dominant performance. Hopefully she can measure up.’’
Probabeel has won three of her four starts and is very much a filly on the up and has been handed plenty of respect as a $5.50 second favourite with TAB for her Australian debut.
Richards, who also trains New Zealand’s best galloper Melody Belle and cult hero Te Akau Shark, said it was former Godolphin boss Henry Plumptre, now CEO of Cambridge Stud, who suggested the 1400m Sires was the right race for Probabeel.
“She’s a filly that will appreciate a bit further, the way she races she switches off and relaxes and can sprint,’’ Richards said.
The filly is a long way down the order of entry for the Golden Slipper with the bulk of her $550,000-plus prizemoney coming from a sales restricted race.
It’s been close to two months since the Karaka Million and Richards said Probabeel warmed up nicely with a barrier trial win in New Zealand over 1000m on March 5.
What he’s not certain about – and it’s something that’s unusual for the Kiwis – is whether or not she'll thrive on the expected wet track.
“There’s not a lot we can do about that, we just have to have a go and see how we get on,’’ he said.
“She did trial on a heavy track in the spring but it’s a bit different under race day conditions.
"I’m not exactly sure how she will handle it, we’ve had a dry summer in NZ so it’s a wait and see.’’
Probabeel gives a good field of two year-olds windburn in the 2019 running of the Karaka Million 2YO. That's three in a row for @TeAkauRacing and jockey Opie Bosson@SKYNZ #NZRacing pic.twitter.com/JxHuZ3N8JD
— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) January 26, 2019
Richards has three other horses nominated for races during The Championships and all eyes will be on how fillies Savy Yong Blonk and Shezathinka perform in the Group 1 NZ Oaks (2400m) at Trentham this Saturday.
Both three-year-olds are in the $1m James Boag’s Premium Australian Oaks (2400m) picture while we’ll see last year’s champion two-year-old Advantage in action at Rosehill next Saturday.
Advantage has won six of her seven starts and will line up in either the Darby Munro (1200m) or Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) on the way to the Group 2 $1m Arrowfield Sprint (1200m) on April 13.