By Ray Hickson
A day after raising the bat for his first half-century in the city, trainer Bjorn Baker says he’s keen to build on what will be his most successful season in eight years in Sydney.
Baker trained his 50th city winner at Canterbury on Wednesday, more than double last year’s number, and took his overall tally to 119 which is just two shy of his personal best with seven weeks of the season remaining.
On Thursday at Gosford the win of Straight Torque made it 120.
“If you’d asked me on July 31 last year I’d have taken it with open arms, it’s been a good season and great to be more active in the city than I’ve been,’’ Baker said.
“I have a great team, a lot of really good riders and there’s a good team vibe too. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had a couple of horses really put their hand up like Soldier Of Love and Positive Peace.”
Baker’s stable star and last Group 1 winner Samadoubt has been absent from racing with injury since Everest Day and won’t be back this year.
He’s identified the younger brigade as a weak spot in his stable and is looking to that generation to propel him forward in the spring and beyond.
“It’s always hard to replicate when you have a semi-breakthrough season,’’ Baker said.
“We’ve been quiet with our two-year-olds so hopefully a couple of them can step up and we have a good bunch of yearlings so we’ll be looking to make more of an impact in two-year-old races.
“When you get consistency and are competing on a better level that’s when the better horses start to roll. I’m mindful we need some good two-year-olds and some proper Group 1 performers.”
Baker has runners in six of the nine races at Rosehill on Saturday and says several have genuine winning chances.
He’s looking to the emerging Soldier Of Love to continue his march through the grades, is prepared say he got it wrong with wet tracker Miss Einstein last start and give her another chance while he pinpoints Edison as an improver along with a luckless Bring The Ransom.
Soldier Of Love chases a hat-trick in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1800m) where he was a firm $3.70 TAB favourite on Thursday, and Baker said he can be relied upon to perform despite a tricky gate.
“He’s bombproof, he’s a no nonsense horse who is laid back in the stable and doesn’t get carried away,’’ he said.
“You can’t knock him, he’s done a fantastic job.
“We’ll see how the track comes up and the scratchings and take that into account. He has tactical speed, he can roll forward and do what he needs to. He’s one of those horses I’m confident can find a good enough place to finish off.”
Kerrin McEvoy takes over on Miss Einstein who is also vying for favouritism in the Yes Yes Yes New To Coolmore Handicap (1500m) despite costing punters plenty with successive defeats as favourite.
The mare chased home Opacity two starts ago, and that form has held up, while Baker said she had excuses for her fifth placing behind Bound To Win at Rosehill two weeks ago.
Bjorn Baker is forgiving of Miss Einstein's fifth at Rosehill on May 30
“She was held up at a crucial time but she wasn’t at her best with the seven day back-up,’’ he said.
“I think two weeks into this run she’ll be a lot better, we’ve freshened her up a bit and she galloped well on Tuesday.”
Baker said Edison will strip a lot fitter in the Rosehill Bowling Club Handicap (1200m) than he did two weeks ago when eighth behind Mo’s Crown, when in the market, while he’s enthusiastic about Bring The Ransom’s chances in the same race if she can have better luck than she did running fifth in the same race.
Edison was $12 with TAB on Thursday while Bring The Ransom, who ran the equal fastest last 600m of 35.08 (Punter’s Intelligence) despite being held up, was a $17 chance.
“I think last time Edison was always going to be susceptible with the one trial and that’s the way it worked out,’’ he said.
“He does look much more forward.
“Bring The Ransom was unlucky, from her gate it is going to be tricky but she gets in with no weight and we know she can handle a wet track so she’s definitely not out of it.’’
Baker’s other runners are Able Hill (race 1), Miss Invincible (race 7) and import Night Of Power, off an eye-catching trial behind Classique Legend, plus Bold And Wild (race 9).