By Frances O'Shea
Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan is bubbling with excitement about the prospects of stable star Echo Effect in the upcoming Wyong Provincial Championships Qualifier. She believes her multiple Group-placed gelding is primed and ready to be a serious contender in the $150,000 race to be run on his home track on March 3.
A convincing six-length trial win at Hawkesbury on Tuesday put the finishing touch into Echo Effect’s Championship challenge before he heads to the Brisbane Winter Carnival chasing more black type. The four-year-old’s last outing was a close third in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes at Caulfield on October 21. Earlier in the year he was beaten a nose in the Group 2 Hobartville at Rosehill.
“When we pulled up stumps at Caulfield I said to the owners, let's target the Provincials for the autumn coming up,” Buchanan said. “He’s been placed twice in Group races and gets into it with 56kg on his back.
It’s such a great incentive. We said let’s make that our main autumn goal. While he is still eligible we’d be mad not to.”
Buchanan said the Hawkesbury trial had mainly been about giving Blaike McDougall, who will partner him at Wyong, another ride on Echo Effect.
“The horse didn’t really need it for fitness even though that doesn’t hurt coming into a high-pressure race, but the whole point was to give Blaike another feel of him.
“He’s ridden him in two situations where there has been a lot of speed on and the horse settled beautifully. We wanted to put him in a situation where the pace would slacken and allow him to stroll to the front and see how he was back leading earlier in a race. I was expecting him to trial as impressively as that. He’s an amazing horse. We probably made him look a little bit unimpressive with what we did last preparation but there was a method to the madness.”
Buchanan said following advice from Hugh Bowman they took the sit in most of Echo’s Effects runs last preparation.
“Hugh said you are going to have to pick races with some speed and try and teach him not to be a bull in a china shop, to relax and take a sit and find the line. It really was an education preparation and when we were going to reap the fruits of it in Melbourne, he hit himself again and bruised his foot.”
Echo Effect had 12 days in the stable when he returned from Melbourne and then a two-week spell: “We’ve been taking it very slowly with him, treating him coolly and calmly. He’s responded well and is maturing. He’s finally becoming a racehorse.
“He’s got a ton of ability. He’s just a bit mad but that’s all coming together now with a bit of time and effort and the trip away to Melbourne was fantastic. It helped him a lot. He’s getting there. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had.”
Buchanan said while it was hard to replace the now-retired jockey Paul King she was happy with handing the reins to McDougall: “I really gave it a lot of thought. Blaike is in great form and has beautiful hands.
"I haven’t seen him panic on my horse once or too many others. This is a horse that has to be ridden where he is comfortable and not where he is tactically perfect, so I really wanted to get that clear. He gets on well with the horse. He rode him at his trial at Warwick Farm, in his Warwick Farm start and he came and rode him at Hawkesbury for me. He really is a horse you need to know. You need a rider that is comfortable to trust the horse in running.”
Buchanan said having great owners in Western Australian’s Nino and Tina Tufilli, made it easier to train the horse: “It’s wonderful just to have a horse like this but also to have owners that trust me with him when they could so easily have gone and sent it to Chris Waller or someone.
“He is tricky and they have really put their faith in me to try what I needed to try and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It gives you a lot of confidence. You walk on eggshells with a horse like this anyway because there is a lot of pressure, but without the pressure from owners you can just do your job and it’s so good. I’m blessed.”
Nominations for the Wyong Qualifier on March 3 race close at 11am on Monday.