By Ray Hickson
He might be the stable's second seed for The Kosciuszko but trainer Kurt Goldman is confident Equal Balance can throw his hat in the ring when he returns at Rosehill on Saturday.
While classy mare Eckstein is being prepared to return in the Group 2 Sheraco Stakes, six days prior to the Kosciuszko ticket draw, Equal Balance doesn't have the luxury of being a proven stakes performer.
Goldman said the gelding is a talent in his own right and after a rousing trial earlier in the week a strong performance in the TAB Highway (1100m) is on the cards.
"I expect him to run a pretty bold race, his trial on Monday was superb at Rosehill and he seems to have come through that trial in pretty good shape,'' Goldman said
"I was surprised how quickly he bounced back to his normal self.
"He is a horse that normally has a solid hit-out a week before a race and he thrives on that.''
Equal Balance runs this in a Rosehill trial on August 20
Equal Balance, who has a win over She Knows and a close third to stakeswinner Epidemic on his CV, carried a big weight to win first-up back in May at Wagga but raced below his best in two starts in Queensland and Goldman suspects the tough first-up run was a factor.
The Highway is dominated by horses that need to show their wares to potential slot holders with Equal Balance at $6 with TAB behind potential Kosciuszko runners Common Purpose ($2.90) and Highway Sixtysix ($4.40).
"It's probably one of the more competitive Highways around but he has beaten better horses that he's meeting on Saturday,'' Goldman said.
"I hold this horse in pretty high regard. I think he is up to stakes level and going towards the Kosciuszko that's probably want you want.
"Behind Eckstein he would be the most logical second pick.''
Another horse Goldman is bullish about from a future viewpoint is lightly raced four-year-old Safe Landing, who will tackle a Highway next week at Randwick.
Goldman concedes The Kosciuszko might come up a bit too soon for the gelding, a last start six length winner at Goulburn, and he's more likely to be a Country Championships horse.
"He's the question mark I guess but he is another horse loaded with ability,'' he said.
"If he was to come out and win a Highway in good fashion it might get on the radar of some people but he'll be a better horse come February in the Country Championships.''
A guide to where TAB's leading Kosciuszko contenders are likely to be seen next:
Care To Think ($4), Matt Dunn – trial October 2, first-up into The Kosciuszko
Victorem ($6), Jenny Graham – two trials, first September 23, first-up into The Kosciuszko
The Monstar ($7), Brett Cavanough – next run G3 Concorde Stakes, Randwick September 1
Eckstein ($8), Kurt Goldman – one more trial then first-up G2 Sheraco Stakes, Rosehill September 8
Don’t Give A Damn ($11), Danny Williams – races Rosehill on Saturday
The Virginian ($11), John Ramsay – possible first-up 900m Hurricane at Newcastle September 15
Awesome Pluck ($15), Jenny Graham – trials September 23, may then have a second trial or a race start.
Kopi Luwak ($15), Danny Williams – finished pre-training, back in stable. No set first-up run yet.
Snitz ($15), Matt Dunn – first-up 1200m open at Doomben September 29.
Suncraze ($15), Melanie O'Gorman – resumes early September in Sydney
After All That ($26), Rod Northam – trial 3rd September, first-up The Shorts at Randwick September 15
Akasaki ($26) , Stephen Jones – races Rosehill September 8 in BM88
O’ So Hazy ($26), Scott Spackman – races Wagga Wagga Thursday August 30
Lifesaver (N/P), Matt Dunn – next run Doomben 1200m C6 or 1000m Highway at Randwick, both September 15.