By Ray Hickson
Had things turned out a little differently trainer Jason Coyle is adamant Air To Air would be contesting the $7.5m Iron Jack Golden Eagle and not a Benchmark 72 at Rosehill on Saturday.
Air To Air emerged from seemingly nowhere back in May with her eye-catching third at $51 in the Inglis Guineas, behind Golden Eagle runner Dawn Passage, and after a narrow first-up defeat Coyle had the confidence to test her in a string of mares Group races.
She was beaten three lengths after a wide run in the Group 3 Tibbie Stakes then conceded too much start in the Group 2 Golden Pendant and was ridden upside down in the Group 3 Angst Stakes so Coyle’s had to hit reset and return to benchmark races.
“What she produced first-up showed she has good class about her then she was caught in no man’s land in the Tibbie against more seasoned gallopers,’’ he said.
“She got too far back two starts ago and we were way too close last start and it’s taken away the opportunity to run in a really high prizemoney race.
“In saying that she has to now find her form again on paper.
“I just thought from a nice draw (in the Pendant) we were still going backwards passing the 800m we had no chance. Last start we landed way too close and that’s never been her pattern.
“She needs to be saved for that strong last 600m, like she was against a horse like Dawn Passage.”
The four-year-old is fourth emergency for the Golden Eagle and it’s unlikely she’ll get that late call up so the Schweppes Handicap (1400m), where she’s $10 with TAB, is where she’ll look to gain some consolation.
Coyle has recalled jockey Jess Taylor, who won on Air To Air back in April, and is hoping the tempo of a 1400m race allows her to settle midfield and attack the line.
“The positive is having Jess back on, she’s been on the horse’s back a few times and if she is ridden the right way he’s proven she is right up to a high class of horse,’’ he said.
“You’ve got to let her find her feet, as soon as you give her an inch she is going to take a mile because she can be that bit aggressive.
“If we can find that happy middle ground for her, you only have to look through her best performances and she is a pretty smart mare.”
Like Air To Air, stablemate Mo’s Crown is a $10 chance for his return in the Rendr Delivery Sprint (1100m) which will be his first run since winning on a heavy track at Rosehill in May.
Coyle said the gelding has come back well for a summer preparation though concedes he has a couple of things against him first-up from an outside draw.
Air To Air's first-up run at Randwick in September
“He can overcome a bit of adversity but he is first-up so if something goes wrong he could be a bit susceptible,’’ he said.
“There’s no reason he couldn’t have been in a touch earlier and been competitive in some of the 1100m and 1200m sprints in the carnival.
“But he can start in a 78 and progress over the summer and if he can continue on that upward spiral he should find himself with a nice rating and we can be a bit more aggressive coming into the autumn.”
Mo’s Crown led all the way to his last start win and Coyle said he can be open minded about how to approach his task on Saturday.
“Last prep he jumped handier than expected and put them to bed, he’s been back in fields and finished nice and strong so he’s not a one trick pony and it’s nice when you have a horse that can do that,’’ he said.