By Ray Hickson
Trainer John Sargent can make a strong case for both in-form mare Emeralds and Group 1 placed Brandenburg to be major players in Saturday’s $7.5m Iron Jack Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens.
It’s easy for the Randwick trainer to push Emeralds’ credentials given her impressive last start Group 3 win in the Angst Stakes (1600m) but in Brandenburg’s case he’s trusting that a change of routine and return to a wet track will see him produce a spring peak.
The duo are considered outsiders with Emeralds at $31 with TAB and Brandenburg $26 but Sargent said that’s also a reflection of the strength and open-ness of Australia’s only feature race exclusively for four-year-olds.
Emeralds has been a horse that’s promised plenty and she started the autumn as one of the most promising fillies in training but it was cut short when she bled as a well supported favourite back in March.
“We gave her a long break, she’s never shown any signs of that since and she’s come in a different horse,’’ Sargent said.
“She’s a lot more mature and very relaxed. She finally showed last start what she can do, now we are out to that distance of 1500m to a mile.”
Jason Collett brought Emeralds with a strong late surge to win the Angst Stakes and that backed up her Group 2 placing in the Golden Pendant at her previous start.
Sargent said her form at stakes level this time in is a reflection of her maturity and improving race sense.
“Jason said she was a lot better than the start before, he thought she’d gone up a level,’’ he said.
“I think she’s on that upward trend and she will give it a shake on Saturday.”
Brandenburg has been a real head scratcher for Sargent.
He started the spring with a heavy track third in the Group 1 Doncaster on his CV from the autumn and the expectation that a Group 1 win isn’t far from his reach, he finished midfield in the Epsom and his best effort in three runs in spring was a third to Probabeel in the Bill Ritchie.
Sargent said the connections are happy to chase the $7.5m incentive in the Golden Eagle but his days as an entire could be numbered.
“I think you can’t turn away this type of money as a four-year-old and you can always (chase a Group 1) next year,’’ he said.
“We might have a run after this down in Melbourne and there’s always the option if he doesn’t get a Group 1 soon he could be gelded.
“He’s a lovely natured horse but there’s always that as a last resort.”
Key to Brandenburg’s chances is the return to heavy ground and Sargent has been mixing up his training for what he describes as a big test.
Still, he’s been disappointed with what the horse has produced on the track of late.
Emeralds wins the Angst Stakes at Randwick
“This time in he’s been on hard tracks, they’ve been pass marks without being brilliant,’’ he said.
“I’ve changed a lot around, he’s been jumping and the side winkers go on and the rain is about so I think you will see a different horse.”
Regan Bayliss rides Brandenburg in the Eagle and he took the entire for a spin in a close second in a Hawkesbury trial back on October 19.
Of course ten per cent of the Golden Eagle prizemoney is donated to charities selected by each horse’s owner and Brandenburg will be racing for the EB Research Partnership Australia while Emeralds’ owners are supporting The Smith Family.