By Ray Hickson
Trainer Greg Hickman says he doesn’t need to tell jockey Keagan Latham how to ride Eleven Eleven from the outside gate in his return at Rosehill on Saturday.
He’ll only have one instruction and that’s to ensure the talented four-year-old is at his strongest at the finish of the Members Christmas Handicap (1100m).
Hickman doesn’t like to waste bullets with his horses and ideally he’s not the type to endorse kicking off a preparation from barrier 13 in a sprint race but the gelding has now had three trials, the first in mid-October, and is ready to race.
“I like to see them be competitive when they go around but you can’t keep running away from bad barriers all the time,’’ he said.
“You don’t want it to be a gutbuster. His work has been good enough for him to be very competitive.
“All I want is for him to ride him to finish off. Whether that means go back and do that or whatever, that’s what my instructions to Keagan will be.”
First-up in the autumn Eleven Eleven ran an eye-catching fifth in the Group 2 Arrowfield Sprint (1200m) at Randwick and he ended his three start campaign with a third to Ranier in the Listed Luskin Star (1300m) at Rosehill in May.
Latham has been on board Eleven Eleven in all four wins to date – including the Magic Millions Guineas that was awarded to him following the disqualification of Alligator Blood - and in each of his three trials, the latest of those a 1200m heat at Warwick Farm on November 17.
Eleven Eleven's latest trial at Warwick Farm on November 17
“Keagan is a thinker, he knows the horse and his tricks that he has, he knows how to turn him on a bit and how to turn him off when we have to turn him off,’’ Hickman said.
“He’s good on the horse and he actually likes the horse.
“I like to be able to jump out and slot in midfield if we’re lucky enough.”
Hickman’s Plan A was to kick the horse’s campaign off at Newcastle on Hunter Day but he drew wide there as well and elected not go around.
He believes he has the gelding going very well ahead of his summer campaign and that’s why it’s important he has a good experience first-up.
“I wanted to use the 1200m trial to replace the race he missed, that was my line of thought,’’ he said.
“The horse is fit, it’s just he’s better ridden on pace than off pace.
“If they are going hard out in front and dying on their run, doing their best and breathing hard, it’s not a good confidence thing. It's a different kettle of fish when the horse is rock hard.”
Eleven Eleven was a $7.50 chance with TAB for his return and Hickman said he’ll likely back up in the Wyong Magic Millions (1100m) on December 16 before heading north.
Meanwhile, Hickman’s promising Travest is set to resume at Randwick on Saturday week after his pleasing third in a trial at Rosehill earlier this week.
The four-year-old has won two of his four starts to date.
“We’re starting him off at 1100m, it’s probably a bit short but that’s what the programming says,’’ he said.