By Ray Hickson
It might be an afterthought but trainer Murray Baker has learned not to underestimate his Derby winner Quick Thinker as he chases an autumn carnival hat-trick in the Group 3 $140,000 Cactus Imaging Frank Packer Plate (2000m) on Saturday.
Quick Thinker’s superior wet track ability has been to the fore in his Tulloch Stakes and Australian Derby wins but Baker's main concern is the expected good track, or close to it, at Randwick.
“We did give serious thought to spelling him but we don’t know where we are with racing and whether we can get them home,’’ Baker said.
“He’s a genuine horse and he’s race fit, it’s a set weights race so that’s appealing and we thought why not.
“This will be interesting because the track will be a lot drier.’’
The last Australian Derby winner to take out the Frank Packer Plate was Clangalang back in 2003.
Baker, who has had to watch his colt’s Sydney heroics from his farm in New Zealand, admits the rise of Quick Thinker has come as a pleasant surprise.
Quick Thinker wins the Australian Derby on April 4
Quick Thinker, a dominant $2 favourite with TAB on Wednesday, has been stabled with Bjorn Baker at Warwick Farm along with stablemate The Chosen One, runner-up in last week’s Sydney Cup and winner of last year’s Frank Packer Plate.
The three-year-old was sent to Sydney in the spring and won the Group 3 Ming Dynasty, on a heavy track, and was placed in the Gloaming Stakes so there was always a reason for another shot in the autumn when the tracks are traditionally forgiving.
“Who would have thought he’d get going like this,’’ he said.
“It was a brave effort in the Derby, he hit the front turning in and they all had the chance to knock him over.
“Even though he was good (at 2400m) I think he’s more a 2000m horse.
“Bjorn reckons the horse is very well, he quite a tough horse and he’s thrived but he will go for a spell after this.’’
With uncertainty over racing in New Zealand in the short term, as Baker mentioned, it’s likely both horses will spell in New South Wales for the time being and they could stick around for the spring.
Baker said he and co-trainer Andrew Forsman have turned out around 90 horses from their Cambridge base with New Zealand in stage four lockdown for at least another week.
“Australian racing is so good, you are blessed and I say that every time I go there,’’ he said.
“We have to spell them in Australia at this stage because there are no horse flights but there’s predictions they may open up in the next three or four weeks.’’