By Ray Hickson
You could forgive co-trainer Adrian Bott for wondering what might have been had a dry track presented in the Golden Eagle but he’s confident Dawn Passage can snare a consolation in Saturday’s $1m The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange.
It could also open up all kinds of options for the smart four-year-old’s autumn campaign as Bott and Gai Waterhouse are keen to test his mettle as a potential Doncaster Mile contender.
And Waterhouse would know if he is Doncaster material with seven wins in the famous Randwick mile in the record books.
Dawn Passage finished a gallant third behind Colette the $7.5m Golden Eagle (1500m) last month and the fact he was able to give the race a shake on heavy ground speaks volumes to Bott about how well he is going.
“I think he is racing in great form this prep and I thought his run in the Golden Eagle was a huge effort,’’ he said.
“It’s not his preferred surface but he got through it very well, he surprised me how well, and it was probably just that bit more of a testing track that saw him peak on his run.
“He went into his first run with a fair bit of improvement to come out of it. The way he loomed up, I loved the way he travelled into the race, it showed he is a horse in good order and racing well.
“I’d like to think that has him ready for a strong mile third-up.”
Since the Golden Eagle, Dawn Passage has been kept up to the mark with a barrier trial win at Wyong and, with a dry track to present at Kembla, Bott said there should be no excises.
The entire has drawn barrier one with Tim Clark to ride.
A win, or another positive performance, will encourage Bott to target the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) next month and the Doncaster carrot that comes with it.
“We’ve kept the Villiers open for him which could set up his autumn campaign and what that might look like,’’ he said.
“The mile will be a good test, we’ve never stretched him out to that. I think he has shown he is capable of being effective at the trip and if that is the case then the natural path is to the Villiers.
“At this point in his career I don’t think we will be stretching him past a mile. If he does handle a strong mile on Saturday you’d think he’d be well weighted in a Doncaster.
“If we find he is a bit too sharp for it a race like the All Aged (at 1400m) might be a nice target for him.”
Dawn Passage has long promised to do something special on the track – he easily accounted for Bivouac on debut – but it wasn’t until last autumn and winter that he started to realise his potential.
Dawn Passage runs third in the Golden Eagle at Rosehill
He claimed a hat-trick winning the Hawkesbury Guineas, Inglis Guineas and Fred Best but his Group 1 shot in the Stradbroke didn’t go to plan after drawing the outside alley.
“He’s been a really talented horse from his first start and I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet,’’ Bott said.
“He didn’t quite get the big result as an early three-year-old but the back end he really showed the potential was there.
“He does well in the stable, which is good, he thrives on his work so with everything he has done to date he should be ready to hit a peak on Saturday.”