By Ray Hickson
It was supposed to be a conservative move to pitch impressive debut winner Yao Dash into the Benchmark 72 Strawberry Hill Stud Handicap (1300m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
But co-trainer Adrian Bott is going to find out very quickly just how promising the three-year-old is because restricted race’s strength has surprised everyone, to the extent it will likely be a significant pointer to better spring races.
There’s Superium, who was first past the post in the Group 3 Up & Coming Stakes last start before losing on protest, the unbeaten Pandemic and Funstar and that’s to name a few.
“It’s a race with a lot of depth in it, it’s come up very strong and stronger than I initially anticipated,’’ Bott said.
“I’m happy with the horse and I still reckon it’s the right race for him. Saturday will tell us exactly how good he is and where he’s at.
“There are horses in there with a good record already and you’ve got some improving types as well.
“I always thought he would improve and develop into a top class three-year-old but we are still a preparation away from seeing his best for sure. That’s why he didn’t get thrown straight into stakes company.’’
Yao Dash’s Canterbury debut win was strengthened midweek with the runner-up Petronius scoring on the Kensington track and he sits as a $4.60 chance with TAB.
Punter’s Intelligence sectional data shows Yao Dash ran the fastest last 600m of 33.77 across the three 1200m races and his last 200m of 10.89 was far superior to anything else out of those events.
While Bott said the best is still six months away for the gelding he’s a typical Waterhouse/Bott product who will make his own luck.
“He showed good speed at his first start and I’d expect him to put himself right in the race,’’ he said.
“He seemed quite professional and relaxed in the run, showed a supreme turn of foot and with the drying conditions I’m confident he can run a good race for us again.
“We’ll continue stepping him out in trip throughout the campaign unless he says otherwise.’’
Bott did plenty of waxing a week ago about how well the gelded version of Group 3 winner Master Ash is shaping up and the drying surface is in his favour in the Sydney Markets Handicap (1200m).
“He’s going to improve off the run and will be better placed further into his campaign but it is a nice race to kick off in,’’ he said.
Yao Dash wins at Canterbury on August 21
Penske’s prospects as an Epsom contender will be given a severe test in the Group 2 $200,000 Harvey Norman Tramway Stakes (1400m).
The six-year-old was a winner at the trip first-up last preparation and has been fitted with two barrier trial wins - he faces the Epsom favourite in Te Akau Shark.
“It’s fair to say he’s thrown in the deep end but we have him down as a potential Epsom type,’’ Bott said.
“This is usually a good indication, if he is able to be competitive in a race of this quality first-up that will show he is on that path.
“We tested him once in stakes company last campaign, second-up, and he may have just felt the first-up performance.’’