By Ray Hickson
There’s no doubt the vibe from the Gerald Ryan stable is that Ellsberg is a horse destined to reach much higher levels than Saturday’s Group 3 $200,000 Blacktown Workers Club Group Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m).
Co-trainer Sterling Alexiou says the colt’s first-up win is evidence that he’s improved from a promising first preparation and the Guineas will be an important test of confirmation.
Ellsberg led all the way to an easy win in the Listed South Pacific Classic (1400m) at Randwick two weeks ago, going straight as a gun barrel, and Alexiou said Hawkesbury is an ideal next step.
“He probably didn’t get a chance to show any signs of greenness,’’ he said.
“Timmy (Clark) bounced and rode him like the best horse in the race and he had the rail to follow.
“Whether that eventuates again on Saturday, or whether he has to sit outside leader and he happens to do a few things wrong, we won’t find out until Saturday.
“He’s not a horse that does much wrong at home or in his trials so all indications are that he’s learned a lot from that first racing preparation and is much more the finished article now.”
The three-year-old is by Spill The Beans, who won the 2016 Hawkesbury Guineas for Gerald Ryan and Tim Clark so it’ll be a rare occurrence if Ellsberg is able to emulate his sire.
He was a clear $2.10 favourite with TAB on Thursday and will be sporting new colours.
Alexiou said Queensland, just as it was with Spill The Beans who went on to win the Group 2 QTC Cup two starts later before being retired, is the likely next step for Ellsberg should he continue on his winning way but feels his long term prospects are very good.
“We have pretty high hopes for him but whether those hopes are reached this preparation or next we will see after Saturday,’’ he said.
“He's a progressive horse and we wouldn’t worry if we had to take on the older horses.
“Obviously the Stradbroke and those races are on the cards but if he gets to a Stradbroke he’d be wanting to win his next couple pretty convincingly.”
Stablemate Steely rises in class into the Blakes Marine Handicap (1500m) but Alexiou is quietly confident he can measure up.
The gelding was a second-up winner at Kembla Grange two weeks ago and he said while Steely’s so far not fired in metropolitan company this race is his best chance.
“He’s stepping up to Saturday grade, he’s been well placed and looked after,’’ Alexiou said.
Ellsberg wins at Randwick on April 17
“His rating is getting up now and determines where he has to run and that’s Saturday. I think he is a good chance without getting carried away.
“If he can get a good run he’s there with a show.”
Steely, $6 with TAB, hasn’t been back to Hawkesbury since he won there on debut and he drops 4kg on his last start win. Expect to see him given plenty of clear air in the run.
“He’s a much better horse outside horses,’’ Alexiou said.
“A lot of the times he’s run in town he’s been hemmed on the fence and things haven’t gone his way.”