By Ray Hickson
The status of underdog and local hope sits just fine with trainer Kerry Parker as his stable star Think It Over flies the flag for Kembla Grange in Saturday's $1m The Gong (1600m).
Parker’s Group 3 winner is a $41 chance with TAB, and the only locally trained runner in the Illawarra's biggest race, and as he continues his promotional rounds for the event says he’ll be ‘having something on’ his charge.
It seems as though Parker has spoken to every media outlet this week and he says it’s the least he can do to raise awareness for a race meeting he’d like to see stick around for a very long time.
“It’s something for everyone to get behind,’’ Parker said.
“I thought it went really well last year. It’s a shame we are under the Covid restrictions because I think it would have been bigger.
“I didn’t have runner last year but I did do some PR for it and went to the Calcutta and tried to get behind it and promote it. Being a local you want to keep a race meeting like this.”
Think It Over joined Parker’s yard in mid-2019 as a horse rated 60 so his presence in The Gong, now with a 103 rating, is a rap for both horse and trainer.
That rating is largely thanks to his Craven Plate win two starts back, a win that doubled his prizemoney haul, and Parker is overlooking his last start failure in the Rosehill Gold Cup (2000m) on a very heavy track.
He said the zero against his name from that race doesn’t faze him at all but concedes the gelding will need a genuine tempo to be able to take advantage of his inside barrier coming back to a mile.
“He’s always been nice and competitive and I’ve kept this race in mind this preparation,’’ he said.
“He was never really comfortable (at Rosehill) and Nash looked after him pretty well, it wasn’t like he had a gutbuster, and he had five days in the paddock straight after.
“He needed a barrier so that was lovely to see. If he can get that nice little soft run and get a bit of clear air in the straight then it is up to him.
“On his home track we are hoping we can find that extra length or so. You’d want a good even tempo and we’d be looking to slot in behind the pace.
“He’ll probably be over the odds but when you dive into his mile form the horses that have beaten him over the mile wouldn’t get into this field. But I think he is going terrific and he will get his chance.”
Parker describes his placement of Don Luigi in the Canadian Club Handicap (1500m) and Virgilio in the ABAX Contracting Handicap (1200m) as a ‘throw at the stumps’ but the opportunity to run for metro prizemoney on their home track is too good to pass up.
Don Luigi, a $34 chance, has sprung to life at his past two starts after a forgettable kick off to his career but Parker was proud of his last start third, albeit in a Class 1, last weekend.
Think It Over wins at Randwick on October 17
“At his first start the jock lost his irons. Second start he got a bit lost and pulled up a bit sore but his last two starts have been good,’’ he said.
“This is a throw at the stumps and he is going to the paddock after but he was only going to have one more run here next Saturday in a normal $30,000 Class 1. He can go around here with 50kg.
“He’s a little bit untapped, I thought his last start was terrific. He was wide and had a torrid run but was still there trying to win the race 100m out.”
Virgilio has only missed a place once in 12 starts on his home track and was beaten narrowly over 1200m on November 3.
“You’ve got Saturday races on your home track I’ve got to make the most of it,’’ he said.
“Now he’s drawn a barrier he will put himself in the race, run his normal tough race and it comes down to class.”