By Ray Hickson
On August 25, Gai Waterhouse threw down the gauntlet for the spring when she tweeted “Farnan will not be beaten” and the hall of fame trainer is standing by it as the star colt returns at Rosehill on Saturday.
It’s a throwback to the spring of 2011 when Waterhouse declared Pierro, shortly after his first start, would win the Golden Slipper - and he did that the following autumn – and that has some interesting symmetry about it given she likens Farnan to the former star colt, now successful stallion.
And it’s an even bigger call considering we’re talking the premier spring Group 1 for three-year-olds and likely the nation’s number one sprint, the TAB Everest, as spring targets.
The Golden Slipper hero headlines a mouth watering edition of the Group 2 $200,000 De Bortoli Wines Run To The Rose (1200m) where Farnan’s standing as the leading colt of his year will be put to the test.
“You don’t make a strongly worded statement unless you feel the horse can back it up,’’ Waterhouse said.
“Everyone laughed at me (with Pierro), of course it’s now history.
“Farnan is very much of the style of Pierro, very unassuming, just rolls up his sleeves and does his job. He’s a model colt, just a beautiful horse.
“It’s a privilege to be training an outstanding athlete and Farnan proved he was the superior colt in Australasia winning the Golden Slipper.
“It’s a nice bunch of three-year-olds but they are all inferior to him. Well, they were as two-year-olds.”
Waterhouse, now of course co-training with Adrian Bott, has won the Run To The Rose twice and the latest of those was, fittingly, Pierro.
She said the colt has done exceptionally well with the break and while jockey Hugh Bowman’s estimation that he hasn’t grown a great deal is accurate Waterhouse says he’s grown where it counts.
“He’s matured, I just like his demeanour,’’ she said.
“Hugh is very excited by the colt, he said to me he couldn’t believe how light he is on his feet.”
“When he does go into battle, and we’ve only seen him in trials recently, he puts them away and he puts them away convincingly. Not just a bob of the head.
“I was adamant with Adrian and Aquis that he spell after the Golden Slipper to recover and get ready and strengthen for the spring.
“The horse that won the Sires’ and Champagne (King’s Legacy), where did he finish in the Golden Slipper? He just confirmed the form."
Farnan holds court at the top of TAB betting for Saturday’s race at $2.50, he’s $3.50 Golden Rose favourite and is at $11 in the TAB Everest.
Waterhouse never concerns herself with barrier draws and as tactically interesting as the Run To The Rose promises to be you get the sense Farnan won’t be taking too many prisoners.
“Horses that have good gate speed dictate to the field where they are going to be,’’ she said.
Kiwi galloper Riodini makes his debut for Waterhouse and Bott in the Group 2 $200,000 Iron Jack Theo Marks Stakes (1300m).
The four-year-old, kept safe at $11 with TAB, won his first four starts before finishing a close second to Dragon Leap in the Auckland Guineas and third in the Group 1 Levin Classic over a mile back in January.
Farnan wins a trial at Randwick on August 25
He’s trialled twice behind the flying Nature Strip and Waterhouse said she’s looking forward to putting her stamp on him.
“He’s a very nice individual, a typical New Zealand type, he’s a longish lean horse and very athletic,’’ she said.
“He has a nice attitude about himself, wants to get on with the job, he’s training very well.
“His owner must have thought long and hard about sending him and hope Gai and Adrian can weave their magic.”
Group 1 winner Shout The Bar returns in the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Sheraco Stakes (1200m) having chased Farnan home in her latest trial.
The Vinery Stakes winner, whose only unplaced effort was her sixth in the Australian Oaks, is likely to be reserved to races at a mile to 2000m this campaign and Waterhouse said she could surprise.
“She’s such a good style of mare. She’s very happy and she’s training nicely, they’ve got to start off somewhere,’’ she said.
“I thought her trial was most eye-catching, Farnan was the horse we all waxed lyrical about but she just rolled up her sleeve and got on with it.”