By Ray Hickson
Trainer Matt Dale is hoping he can bring Fell Swoop out of the wilderness through the summer but is cautious ahead of Saturday’s Listed $140,000 Razor Sharp Handicap (1200m) at Royal Randwick.
The inaugural The Everest runner and multiple Group 1 placegetter has been unplaced in his last eight starts and his only placing in the last two years was his third behind Chautauqua and English in the 2017 TJ Smith.
The seven-year-old showed a glimpse of form first-up with a close fifth down the Flemington straight but Dale said he’s had an untimely a foot abscess since that run.
“He never missed any work and he came through that so it’s five weeks between runs into Saturday,’’ Dale said.
“I just think Saturday will bring him on again and from there third and fourth-up he will be back to peak fitness.
“He hasn’t been at his top for a little while but he’s certainly the best I’ve had him for a long time. I want to see a good positive performance and spring off that.’’
Fell Swoop’s last win was in Brisbane in April 2016.
In his first run since The Championships he was beaten just under a length by Thermal Current, and Razor Sharp rival Kaepernick, at Flemington on November 8.
Dale said it was a promising performance given the pattern of the day.
“Up the straight that day it was clear you had to be down the outside portion and we drew barrier one and came down the centre,’’ he said.
“I thought his run was full of merit. I want to see a continuation from what we saw at Flemington that he‘s back and he wants to be competitive.
“He’s won $1.8 million and we were blessed that we had a near faultless run and everything we aimed at he ran well. It’s frustrating but that’s the game we are in.’’
Dale has secured High Bowman to ride on Saturday, where he's $13, and hopes barrier one won’t be the disadvantage it was first-up. He said Fell Swoop is likely to continue through the summer with his next run to be the Standish Handicap at Flemington.
It’s been three months since Dale’s last Highway Handicap winner and that horse, Sei Stella, returns to Randwick on Saturday having recovered from a back complaint.
The mare is the $3.10 favourite for the TAB Highway (1000m) and if successful she will be Dale’s 12th winner of the weekly country feature that has since its inception handed out over $8 million in prizemoney.
Sei Stella's Highway win at Randwick on September 15
Dale said Sei Stella needed a couple of weeks of rehab for the back issue to settle and is confident she’s in A1 condition.
“She looks really well and had a quiet jump out leading in and a good gallop on Tuesday morning on the course proper,’’ Dale said.
“She looks better now than she did the day she won in overall condition and coat.
“Naturally she will benefit from the hitout but she has done the work.’’
Sei Stella carries 56.5kg on Saturday, 3kg more than her last start win, with Jay Ford retaining the ride.
Dale is quietly confident Super Star Bob is a better chance than the $18 suggests in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1400m) to round out the meeting.