By Ray Hickson
Nash Rawiller’s confidence in unbeaten three-year-old Love Tap is enough to offset any worries he has about the challenge presented by “a bad draw at an awkward start”.
For Rawiller the key is knowing his horse’s strengths and weaknesses and in his four starts, two of which the leading hoop has been on board, he’s shown far more of the former than the latter.
So with barrier 13 at the trickiest starting point at Royal Randwick, Rawiller said he’s going into the Group 1 $1m Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) with an “open mind” and faith in Love Tap’s ability.
“I think this will be a real tough test but I have the right horse underneath me,’’ Rawiller said.
“I want to go in with an open mind and ride the horse in the best rhythm I can.
“He’s been a bit sticky out of the gates every time he’s left them and that puts more pressure into the mix as to where we end up. But I have a lot of confidence in my horse.”
Love Tap, trained by the Richard and Michael Freedman partnership, won his first three starts in the country at Nowra and Goulburn before making his city debut with an all the way win in the Group 2 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) two weeks ago.
The gelding’s rise has been remarkable given his first two wins were at 1200m on wet tracks and he had to round them up but once stepped out in distance he’s been right on the speed or setting it as he did in the major Spring Champion lead-up.
Rawiller made the trip to Goulburn for the win preceding the Gloaming and in those two wins he’s formed a firm opinion of what’s under the bonnet.
“He’s a different horse to many I’ve ridden because he seems to be able to run the time without really knowing you’re doing it,’’ he said.
“He’s very unassuming, because he has such a nice big stride he seems to do it without any fuss or effort. The sectionals he can run, I don’t think it matters whether he’s in front or from the back.”
Despite the draw the grey was equal favourite at $3.40 with TAB with Montefilia on Friday and there are some big goals for him should he go five from five.
For his part Rawiller said the best is well and truly ahead for Love Tap.
“He’s had a really good preparation, they’ve done a marvellous job in placing him where he can gain confidence and learn a bit and peak for Saturday,’’ he said.
“At this early stage with a horse like him you just want to keep him in one piece. He’s been expertly managed and is as sound as a bell, it’s pretty exciting to think what he could be eventually.”
The field for the $7.5m Golden Eagle, at Rosehill on October 31, will start to take shape this weekend and Rawiller partners a pair of four-year-olds in Chat and Bottega with designs on Australia’s third richest race.
Chat had no right to be winning at 1100m first-up, Rawiller said, and the fact he was able to kick off in such an impressive fashion gives the jockey confidence he can be competitive in the $500,000 Silver Eagle (1300m) where a top three finish would earn him a place in the big dance.
“The Golden Eagle is probably another level again but this is a race where he can stamp himself as a contender or he will find himself a couple of lengths behind those top horses,'' he said.
"But he’s come back better than ever. He’s gone to the races and won over 1100m which I wouldn’t have ever thought he’d be able to do, but he did it with some ease.”
Love Tap wins the Gloaming Stakes at Rosehill on September 26
With six rivals in the Silver Eagle, including Golden Eagle favourite Alligator Blood, the race is shaping as a tactical affair and Rawiller said he’ll be positive on Chat and see how the race unfolds.
It’s fair to say Bottega was unlucky not to resume with a win at Rosehill last month, Rawiller certainly feels he was, when beaten in a tight finish by Prime Candidate.
The gelding was second past the post but demoted to third on protest. That aside Rawiller said it was a super return and since he won on Bottega earlier this year has maintained he’s an ideal type to aim at the Golden Eagle.
“Getting around the turn we needed all the luck in the world and it didn’t happen for us,’’ he said.
“He was able to overcome that and still hit the line very well. He was pretty stiff not to win the race.”
Bottega is a $5 chance with TAB in the Drinkwise Handicap (1400m) and $17 in the Golden Eagle market.