By Ray Hickson
Premier jockey James McDonald has given an indication of his opinion of a couple of his mounts at Randwick on Saturday simply by electing to ride them.
If that sounds a little obvious it may be but McDonald’s lightest ride at Randwick is talented Perth stayer Come Play With Me in the Group 3 $160,000 The Agency Real Estate Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) and he selected Funstar over Subpeonaed for the Group 2 $200,000 Darley Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) having ridden both promising fillies recently.
Chris Waller’s racing manager Charlie Duckworth said the stable is always encouraged when a jockey goes the extra mile and McDonald making the effort to ride Come Play With Me at 55kg, given he hasn't ridden below 55.5kg for more than a month, is a good example.
“He's a nice horse and locking in James at 55kg is always a little bit of a push,’’ Duckworth said.
“It gives you a good indication of what he thinks.
“It's the same with Hughie (Bowman) if he's riding below his minimum and all the top names if they are willing to squeeze that extra half kilo off their weight it's usually a sign they like the horse.’’
In Come Play With Me’s case there’s a lot to like about his Sydney debut when a fighting second behind one of Sydney’s best wet trackers Wu Gok in the Premier’s Cup (1900m) three weeks ago.
Come Play With Me runs second at Rosehill on August 31
He hadn’t raced for seven weeks and rode a hectic tempo on a heavy track but was still fighting on the line and the general consensus is he’ll be a lot better for the run.
“He certainly looks tough, the bigger the test is in terms of speed on early the greater his chances are,’’ Duckworth said.
The gelding was $3.70 TAB favourite in the Kingston Town on Friday and is one of seven runners from the Waller stable in the important Group 1 Metropolitan lead up.
Duckworth said the stable won’t be surprised to see improvement from the likes of Sydney Cup winner Shraaoh and others stepping into their preferred distance range even in unfavourable conditions.
“Once they get up to that journey they all start to come to the fore,’’ he said.
“It's amazing the difference between a mile and 2000m, you can see a turn around in form.
“You look back at a horse like Preferment when he ran over a mile he could barely get warm then over 2000m he was fighting out Group 1s.
“Girl Tuesday and Finche might not love a wet track they probably need to have this run if they are running in a Metropolitan in two weeks.’’
McDonald has partnered both Funstar and Subpeonaed this preparation and the market would suggest he’s made the right call ($4.60 vs $16) in the Tea Rose.
Funstar ran a race best 33.33 last 600m (Punter’s Intelliegence) in her eye-catching second to Yao Dash two weeks ago but both fillies face their biggest test against Libertini.
But every horse in the post-Winx era is beatable and the champ herself suffered a rare defeat in the Tea Rose back in 2014 at the hands of First Seal.
“Funstar had a solid bit of work on Tuesday morning with Subpeonaed and they both worked over 1000m,’’ Duckworth said.
“James came in to ride her on Tuesday and he was pretty happy so we'll see what kind of judge he is but he was pretty confident she'll be running in the top three.
“It is a massive step up in grade, now she has to prove it on the big stage. Having already raced on rain affected ground is a positive.’’
The same comment applies for Subpeonaed, who rises in class from a midweek Kensington win on September 4, though her wet track credentials come from soft ground at Te Rapa.
“I was speaking to James about her soft track form was quizzing him on a soft track at Te Rapa and a heavy at Randwick and he said they are two different things,’’ Duckworth said.
“She will get through the track, she'll likely get back and find some cover. She will be a fit horse on the scene and I'm sure she will finish strongly.’’