By Ray Hickson
The second half of last season proved to be River Bird’s coming of age and as she returns for 2020 at Rosehill on Saturday her trainer Jason Coyle is confident she still has plenty of upside.
River Bird began her last campaign as a 10 start maiden, despite some excellent performances against the likes of Estijaab, Gem Song and Reelem In Ruby, but ended it with four wins from 16 starts.
Her heroics earned her the BOBS Horse Of The Year title for last season, accumulating $73,125 in bonuses from the quartet of victories.
Coyle said now’s the time to assess where the four-year-old could find herself as we creep towards the carnival and a stack of black type mares races.
“Obviously we’re up in grade, she’s been through her grades and we’re starting to get to the higher benchmark races so she has to come back better but I think both trials have been good,’’ Coyle said.
“We’d like to see her take another step as well, like a lot of mares at this time of year.’’
Three of River Bird’s four wins in the winter came at Rosehill on rain affected ground and each of them were by narrow margins with late surges.
If she’s to win first-up in the Bill Waterhouse Handicap (1100m), where she’s $8 with TAB, that’ll be the likely scenario again in a race which looks to have above average speed on paper.
Coyle said he can’t fault River Bird’s preparation and with a bit of luck in running expects her to be competitive at least.
“She seems to handle most conditions and when it was soft tracks last preparation it didn’t worry her at all,’’ he said.
“She hasn’t drawn the best, I’d like to see them roll at a genuine tempo and give her an opportunity to get some cover. Hopefully they’re getting tired when we are warming up.
“She normally comes to hand quickly but as the cliché says there’s nothing like race fitness.
“I think the form around her is pretty solid. She has to add a couple more lengths but I thought her form said she was good enough to contest stronger races the way it panned out last prep.’’
The result of Saturday’s return will naturally influence where Coyle moves next with River Bird, a win would likely raise the bar, and he said there are other factors to consider as well.
“It depends how they come through the first-up run,’’ he said.
“If we happen to hit a heavy track that changes the dimension of whether you want to run in 14 days or 21 days, I’m open to where she goes.’’
River Bird runs third in a trial at Randwick on January 9
Coyle has two-year-old Linden Tree and honest mare Kawaikini dual accepted for Rosehill and Canterbury on Friday night.
Wherever Linden Tree runs he says “it’s a learning curve for him. He’s a nice colt and it might be a bit early for him’’.
Interestingly, while Coyle seems likely to lean to Canterbury with Kawaikini he said she wouldn’t be out of place taking on Lashes at Rosehill in the Lou Cox Handicap (1100m).
“Canterbury looks the right option but I don’t think that race on Saturday has come up overly strong and she seems to have an affinity with Canterbury,’’ he said.
“I think the market has (Saturday’s race) a bit wrong, I don’t think (Lashes) deserves to be in the red. If I leave my mare in there I think there’s four genuine chances.’’