By Ray Hickson
James Cummings could make compelling cases for all three Godolphin charges in Saturday’s $1m The TAB Hunter (1300m) at Newcastle but it’s clear he thinks there’s a sense of timing about Ranier.
Godolphin, winner of the inaugural Hunter with Savatiano, has pointed Ranier, Gaulois and Asiago at the feature after electing to send the defending champ plus Group 1 winner Flit for a spell.
And after an eye-catching first-up Group 2 placing and a game fourth under 62kg it’s evident Cummings believes now is the time for Ranier to explode.
“His training has gone to another level at this stage of his campaign which is exactly what we want to see from him,’’ he said.
“We’ve been patient and we thought he’s the sort of horse that will reward our patience. This would be a very valuable stage for him to do it on.”
Jason Collett, who rode Savatiano to a Group 2 Hot Danish win for Godolphin last weekend, has the ride on Ranier for the third time this preparation and Cummings said he has confidence in the in-form jockey.
Under the 62kg at Randwick, and with six weeks between runs, Ranier turned second last and though anchored with the weight on a deteriorating track he clocked the second fastest last 600m of 35.08 (Punter's Intelligence) to say he’s ready to win.
Cummings expects Collett will be able to take some advantage of a favourable draw in The Hunter and that will give the five-year-old his chance.
“It was a very good conditioning run,’’ Cummings said.
“It was a very hard race for him to win with the weights but he fought hard to the line and he’s come on again as expected.
“I’d say he seems to have a little more spark in him than he had before his last start and he could potentially be midfield, that’d be ideal for us.”
Gaulois and Asiago have returned from recent racing in Melbourne, Cummings feels Gaulois needs to lift a bit but is capable of it while he is quietly confident Asiago can make her presence felt despite a tricky alley.
Cummings said he has no qualms with running Gaulois, last start sixth behind Wild Planet at Caulfield on October 17, and a positive showing could see him back up in the $1m The Gong (1600m) on Saturday week.
“He needs to perform better than he has this prep but I just have the feeling he has a good performance in him,’’ he said.
“If he’s looking for further and he’s running strongly through the line without winning there are other races that present themselves. Perhaps even the seven day back up.”
Asiago was beaten a length in the Group 1 Empire Rose (1600m) at Flemington two weeks ago, she was the winner of the Listed Mona Lisa first-up at Wyong and Cummings said if Kathy O’Hara can have a bit of luck from a wide gate the mare gets her chance with just 52kg.
“I’d say she’s one of the few horses that’s bringing recent genuine Group 1 form to the table. For that reason she is our most interesting runner,’’ he said.
“Kathy’s got to have an open book but from there I can’t imagine she’d be too prominent.”
TAB, on Thursday, had Ranier as $5 second elect with Asiago at $17 and Gaulois $34.
Ranier runs fourth at Randwick on October 24
A half sister to Group 1 winner Flit, named Sliders, creates plenty of interest in the $125,000 Sage Painting Max Lees Classic (900m).
Sliders, $2.70 favourite with TAB, sat wide when narrowly beaten in her only public trial and Cummings describes her as a slender filly but one that is suited to the race.
“She’s a nice filly, she’s quick and she’s going to need to be because this race takes a quick horse,’’ he said.
“She’s come on nicely since the trial and we will certainly learn a bit about her after this race. She’s very well bred, she has a big page, and I like the fact that she is showing us something early.”
James Cummings on Namazu (Spring Stakes): “We always expected him to struggle on the heavy. He had some soft form but they were on tracks like Canterbury and Newcastle which are good wet track surfaces. I like seeing the horse back on a good track, back to Newcastle where he has run well before, and this race is full of horses with potential but no group form amongst them so he will get his opportunity.”
On Hilo (Hunter Valley Premium Meats Handicap): “He’s having a good preparation, he’s been going really well the whole time through. He got one up on the board last time when he didn’t get the perfect race scenario he likes. He ended up leading them turning for home, I don’t think he will be leading this lot but at least he will have the opportunity to work into the race nicely. I would expect him to run very well again.”