By Ray Hickson
They might be relatively new to Aussie racegoers but Godolphin trainer James Cummings already has a decent handle on recent imports Lackeen, Ziegfeld and Munitions.
The latter has had the benefit of one start on our shores in the spring but the trio, formerly with Andre Fabre, create plenty of interest in their respective races at Rosehill on Saturday because it appears the only way is up for the lightly raced arrivals.
Whether any of them is the next Hartnell or Avilius is anyone’s guess but Cummings said each is in the right race to have their best chance to fire.
“We’re well and truly leaving it to the horses to pave their way and demonstrate how quickly they are going to come to hand,’’ Cummings said.
“Lackeen is gelded, Munitions is gelded, they have some advantage and will acclimatise quicker.
“We very much assess them ourselves but we have the enormous advantage of having access to a lot of information about them from Andre Fabre’s stable.
“I take a huge amount of interest and weight from decisions he makes with those horses. Where he runs them, how far, what sort of grade. Ultimately they end up slotting in and by coincidence they’ve ended up running on the same day.”
Lackeen’s form in France, coupled with James McDonald’s presence in the saddle and an eye-catching barrier trial have earned him $3.30 favouritism with TAB in the Cleanaway Handicap (1400m).
The four-year-old is a veteran of only four starts, he was a winner at Deauville on debut at 1600m and was Listed placed over 2000m in July last year.
“He’s nicely in at the handicaps and he has the opportunity to come through off the modest rating he has so far,’’ Cummings said.
“He gets the chance to kick off in a race not quite as hard as horses like Best Of Days, Avilius or Home Of The Brave. At that handicap he’s really capable of going through the grades quite nicely.”
Cummings said his closing second behind Vienna Rain in a 1045m trial was pleasing because it gave a hint that he’s settling in quickly though points out he did have a light weight rider in the saddle.
“We thought he was coming up well and we love to see them show that Australian style acceleration between runners,’’ he said.
“He appears the type of horse to have what it takes to be competitive at the end of seven furlongs.”
Ziegfeld stepped out in the same trial as Lackeen and clearly didn’t show the same amount of zip as he finished at the back of the eight horse field, though he did do some nice work through the line.
His local debut is in the NSW Jockeys Association Handicap (1400m), stablemate Subedar is also in the field though Cummings said a wet track makes him doubtful, and the four-year-old entire ($4.20 with TAB) brings a solid race record to Sydney.
He’s already a Listed winner at 1600m and a Group 2 placegetter and appears comfortable with a forgiving track surface.
“He’s not quite as sharp as his stablemate and he should need a bit further but I like him in a race with good pressure against quality horses, I think he can keep letting down and be competitive,’’ Cummings said.
“I wouldn’t be disappointed if he needs at least a mile after the weekend. He should at the very least enjoy the wet ground.”
Lackeen runs second in a trial at Randwick on February 5
Cummings said Subedar has recovered from the small mishap that forced his scratching from Randwick last week but would like to see the track improve for him to take his place.
There’s a degree of enthusiasm from Cummings about Munitions who returns as a gelding in the Sharp Exclusive IT Handicap (1100m) following his Australian debut at Flemington in October.
“He didn’t get beaten far but he’s sharper now and he has an explosive look about him,’’ he said.
The five-year-old, a $5.50 chance with TAB, has James McDonald to ride and was responsible for a cheekily smart trial behind Eduardo at Rosehill on February 11.
Godolphin is particularly strong in the Benchmark 94 race with talented mare Emanate ($4.80) in receipt of 6kg from Munitions and Cummings doesn’t deny her a place near the top of the market.
“He’s been in Australia longer than the others and he’s going pretty well,’’ he said.
“I think he is in his right race. The stablemate Emanate is the horse to beat there, she’s coming along in superb fashion, but it will be great to see him returning.
“It’s a sharp race first-up but I couldn’t help but think he will run well.”