By Ray Hickson
There’s an air of confidence about jockey Rachel King at the moment and she’ll be wearing that attitude aboard talented mare Fituese in Saturday’s hotly anticipated clash with boom galloper Masked Crusader at Rosehill.
It’ll be no easy task but King said it’s a great opportunity to test Fituese out early in the spring.
The four-year-old, a winner of five from eight, will be conceding 1.5kg to Masked Crusader and a bit of race fitness in the Vale Rick Worthington Handicap (1100m).
“She makes my job easier in the way she’s a straightforward horse to ride,’’ King said.
“She has early speed, she’s quite happy to sit off a couple as well if I need to. There’s no real set pattern with her, she has natural speed so she is always right up there.
“I don’t want to be thinking about (Masked Crusader) too much and just concentrate on how she is going. But it’ll give us a gauge on where she is at, she’s going to need to perform against a horse like that to know what sort of path to take.”
Masked Crusader was the $1.90 favourite with TAB on Friday with Fituese at $3.70, the pair will jump alongside each other close to the outside of the 10 horse field.
King has been the pilot for all but one of Fituese’s races and in each barrier trial, though she doesn’t generally ride her in trackwork, and she said there’s been noticeable improvement in her this preparation.
She suffered defeat just once in her three starts last campaign, all in the month of May, and King is adamant despite that loss at 1200m she’ll have no trouble with that trip on a dry track in future.
“You don’t picture her as being a fast horse the way she swans about the place very relaxed,’’ she said.
“She’s definitely stepped up to the mark this preparation in her trials and from all reports in her trackwork as well.”
Trainer John Thompson said he couldn’t have been happier with Fituese’s preparation, including a second to Nature Strip and an easy win in her two trials, highlighted by some solid trackwork alongside TAB Everest runner Classique Legend on Tuesday morning.
He took heart from Classique Legend’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy’s glowing report of his horse’s gallop given there wasn’t a lot between the pair.
“We weren’t out to race, it was just a nice piece of work,’’ Thompson said.
“She led the gallop, they came together at the top of the straight and worked up super together.
Fituese wins a trial at Rosehill on August 31
“Both riders were very happy after the work. I know they are very happy with the grey horse, he’s going super, and my mare worked well.”
Thompson said plans for Fituese are a little up in the air at present as his original idea was to send her to Melbourne but given he can’t go himself or send a staff member it may cause a rethink.
Meanwhile, Thompson said it would be special if Fituese could win the race named in honour of trainer Rick Worthington who passed away last weekend after a cancer battle.
“We were good mates. Last week they wore the black armbands in the Chelmsford and I asked Nash (Rawiller) to put it back on for the next race, the Tramway, and it was pleasing to be able to win in respect for Rick,’’ Thompson said.
“To see a tough man like that cut down early it’s pretty devastating. He was very well respected in the inner sanctum and that’s hard to achieve.”