By Ray Hickson
There are Group 1 spring ambitions for talented youngster Verbek and co-trainer Luke Price would like to send him for a break as a winner at Rosehill on Saturday.
Verbek has already been first past the post once this preparation, at Hawkesbury on May 20, but was demoted to second on protest and has since recorded a Listed placing with his last start second at Eagle Farm two weeks ago.
Price, who co-trains with his father Robert, said a win in the E Group Security Handicap (1500m) would encourage him to set Verbek for the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) in October.
“I really think he can turn into a Spring Champion Stakes horse, that’s what we are hoping for,’’ he said.
“The trip away has seasoned him a bit but he’s a pretty mature horse for a two-year-old.
“Maybe he is going to be a miler later in life but I think he will run a strong 2000m as an early three-year-old. We’re still learning about the Turn Me Loose horses, we’ll let him tell us but he gives every impression it won’t be beyond him.
“I thought this could be the right kind of race he could win before he went to the paddock.”
Price said had Verbek retained that Hawkesbury race he may have pulled up stumps after his second behind Volcanic Rock in The Phoenix (1500m) at Eagle Farm or kept the horse in Queensland for his final run.
A few life circumstances, with Luke’s wife currently expecting, saw Price elect to bring Verbek back home and he’s the same weight now as he was prior to heading to Eagle Farm.
“He’s going to be a lot better when he gets over further,’’ he said.
“We were temped to stay in Brisbane for an 1800m next week but this is a nice race for him.
“He’s taken no ill effects, he’s had four days in the paddock and has done extremely well. He really enjoyed the trip away as anyone would at this time of year.”
Hugh Bowman rides Verbek, $4 favourite with TAB on Thursday, at Rosehill and Price said the only reason Nash Rawiller didn’t retain the ride was because of a mix-up on his part when booking jockeys.
“I felt bad when I worked out the races were at Ipswich and Nash would be here but unfortunately the damage was done,’’ he said.
“I let Nash down a bit there, but I’ve got a good replacement in Hughie.”
Count De Rupee returns to the scene of his impressive second-up win in the Ranvet Handicap (1300m) after finishing unplaced in the Group 3 Fred Best at Eagle Farm last month.
Price said the run took a toll on the horse but a class drop and more forgiving surface are in his favour though the horse will need an ounce of luck this time around.
“He certainly felt the track and pulled up a bit dodgy in one of his feet,’’ Price said.
“Ayrton came out of that race and won pretty well and we come back to a grade we started favourite in at the run before.”
In winning second-up Count De Rupee, $7 with TAB, was able to take advantage of an inside barrier and track the lead before pouncing and kicking well clear but on Saturday, from gate 10, things won’t be so simple for apprentice Brock Ryan.
Count De Rupee wins at Rosehill on May 15
“He gets in well with Brock’s claim, he knows the horse well, and if he can find a bit of cover and they do run along they will know he’s there at the finish,’’ he said.
“I think he’s a lot better horse ridden a pair back, I think you’ll see a better turn of foot from the horse when he’s ridden like that. He’s in the right grade to get back to his best.”
Retirement looms for honest mare Liveinthefastlane if she doesn’t show positive signs in the Rosehill Bowling Club Handicap (1500m).
The five-year-old, placed in the Provincial Championships Final three starts back, disappointed Price with her last start eighth of nine at Kembla on May 25.
“Tommy (Berry) said she didn’t handle the track with the big weight (61.5kg),’’ Price said.
“I want to see her really run on and is keen to race because she’s earmarked to go to stud this year.”