By Ray Hickson
Tommy Berry knows a thing or two about backmarkers with big finishes and he’s excited to see what promising Godolphin three-year-old Pandemic produces first-up at Randwick on Saturday.
Back in the winter Pandemic stamped himself as a real find starting his career with two superb wins made memorable by sharp acceleration and it’s that sprint Berry believes can take him on to bigger and better things.
The gelding held the 1100m Kensington track record for a few hours after his second win and on that day Berry had him marked as a sprinter with Group 1 potential.
“I remember thinking at the time if he had a couple of runs under his belt he could measure up to something like the Golden Rose, I thought he was that good,’’ Berry said.
“It obviously all came a bit quick for him. I was pleased to see when I trialled him the other day he hasn't lost his sprint.
“We know that's he's a horse that likes to be left alone early and he's got that devastating turn of foot.’’
The Golden Rose of course featured Pandemic’s stablemate Bivouac, subsequent TAB Everest winner Yes Yes Yes and Group 1 winner Exceedance so it’s safe to say the Mark Alati Bookmakers Handicap (1100m) isn’t in that league.
But it does see the clash of two of the most promising sprinters to emerge in the winter when Pandemic ($2.80 favourite with TAB) will have the job of chasing down Sir Elton ($3.00), a winner of his first three starts before giving Haut Brion Her 3.5kg in running third at his fourth start.
Berry said Sir Elton could hold the key to Pandemic’s chances given the Godolphin galloper has drawn the inside marble but he said an inside barrier didn’t bother him in his standout win.
“I think I only got out at the furlong and he picked them up in two strides,’’ he said.
“I have to ride him with confidence, there's plenty of speed in the race. Sir Elton has drawn around me and hopefully he’s not far out of reach and can take me into it.’’
It’s not often a horse is a couple of lengths last in a barrier trial and winds up winning it by a similar margin but that’s what Pandemic did at Randwick on January 9.
And Berry said he did it ‘naturally’ and without really being asked for an effort.
“When I pulled the stick through, I just waved it at him, he just took off,’’ he said.
“He showed me the acceleration without even asking him too much so he's pretty exciting.’’
All eyes will be on $2.8 million colt Mount Fuji in the $2m Inglis Millennium In 14 Days Handicap (1000m) and Berry is adamant the youngster has the talent to make an impact.
Pandemic wins a trial at Randwick on January 9
But the son of Snitzel is still very new to the game and that was apparent to Berry in his only trial appearance back on January 14.
“He relaxed really well in the trial, he got to the leader (Barbaric) quite comfortably but didn't know how to put him away,’’ Berry said.
“I had a bit to do with Barbaric last preparation, and he's a colt I have a lot of time for, so that was a nice yardstick.’’
Berry has a strong guide on the two-year-old form at the moment having ridden the likes of Aim, for the Snowdens, and Cellsabeel last weekend and while he can’t make a comparison with Mount Fuji before he’s raced he says the colt is going to have his chance.
“He's drawn well to get a nice run and I think if he's produced at the right time he can make his presence felt,’’ he said.
“I think it's a competitive race as well but I don't think you could go into any two-year-old race on one of Snowdens and not be confident.’’