By Ray Hickson
Trainer Jamie Richards is certainly not conceding the Group 2 $200,000 Darley Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) to Libertini after his filly Probabeel’s encouraging first-up performance against her boom rival but he's not yet bullish either.
While Richards probably would prefer the Randwick track to be in the soft range he said Probabeel will start to come into her own as the distances increase and believes Saturday's race is within her reach.
But her main goal is still two weeks away so he said being beaten 1.6 lengths in the Furious Stakes (1200m) first-up, where Libertini scrambled home, tells him he's on track.
“The 1200m was always going to be too short but it was a good way to kick her off,’’ Richards said.
“We knew we were going to need a run and just worried about running our own race. She’s taken good benefit from it and hopefully goes the right way.
“(The 1400m) is going to suit our filly and there’s going to be some other players in there as well. There’s nowhere to hide.’’
The Tea Rose shapes as a test for Libertini, who has won both legs of the Darley Princess Series so far, up to 1400m on a heavy track from barrier 11 so Richards is hoping his filly can take any advantage that allows.
Probabeel opened $14 with TAB while Libertini was $1.90 on Wednesday which seems quite a gap given the Kiwi filly’s performances on wet tracks previously.
She ran fifth behind Microphone in the Group 1 Sires’ (1400m) on a soft 7 in the autumn and made plenty of ground from last to be beaten 3.7 lengths in the Group 2 Magic Night (1200m) on a heavy 10.
Richards said not everything went Probabeel’s way in her first-up run so the run told him she’s on target for the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) in two weeks.
“She jumped well from the inside barrier and probably raced a little handier than we thought she was going to be,’’ he said.
“She stuck to her guns well at the finish, when she was going past the line she had to check off heels a bit.’’
Kerrin McEvoy rides Probabeel while James McDonald partners stablemate Avantage in the Group 3 $160,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m).
There’s no wet track concerns about Avantage, who resumed with a close second over 1200m at Ruakaka three weeks ago, as she’s already a heavy track winner in Sydney from the autumn.
“She didn’t get everything her own way in her first-up run,’’ he said.
“She ran very well in the autumn and we’re looking forward to getting her there.’’
Probabeel runs fourth in the Furious Stakes at Randwick on September 7
Meanwhile, Epsom Handicap favourite Te Akau Shark proved to Richards that he is deserving of a crack at next month’s Group 1 with his eye-catching first-up second in the Tramway and he reports the five-year-old has come through the run to his liking.
“We probably did need to see him come over and compete,’’ he said.
“It was just a shame the place to be seemed to be in front or near the speed and it was hard to make ground from back in the field but I thought he ran really well.’’
Te Akau Shark is the $5 TAB favourite for the Epsom though eight of the next 10 in betting, including Avantage, are engaged in various races this weekend.