By Ray Hickson
Jockey Tommy Berry says he’s at the mercy of the race tempo when he partners classy galloper Rock in Saturday’s $1m The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange.
Simply, Berry says Rock will have to drift back from barrier 11 and bank on getting the right scenario pace wise to unleash the powerful turn of foot he’s shown in winning the past two editions of Newcastle’s Cameron Handicap.
The Team Hawkes gelding again had to concede a huge start in the Group 1 Epsom where he was beaten two lengths but, a bit like at Newcastle, he was able to settle in front of a few when running third in the Group 1 Cantala Stakes at Flemington three weeks ago.
“It’s always nice if you can hold a spot a bit closer and you can only do that if you draw well,’’ Berry said.
“I was disappointed he drew a little bit poorly. It was nice last start in Melbourne he drew a gate and he was able to hold a spot a lot closer. It meant he didn’t have as much work to do from the back of the field.
“Our cards have been dictated to us once again where he’ll have to be ridden quiet.”
In an ideal world, Berry said he’d like to see The Gong run at a moderate tempo so Rock, $7 with TAB, can use his weapon to best effect.
Punter’s Intelligence sectional data from the Cameron showed Rock ran his last 600m in 35.35, or two and a half lengths faster than the next best. He sizzled running 11.30 from the 400m-200m.
“He’s the sort of horse that is better off a slow tempo than a fast tempo,’’ Berry said.
“If they go too quick it takes the sprint out of him so he’ll probably settle in the second half of the field and it would suit him better if they don’t go as quick.
“It’ll probably suit a few other horses if they don’t go quick either.”
Berry has a growing opinion of Wairere Falls and is hoping to start the Kembla meeting by guiding the in-form gelding to a hat-trick in the Canadian Club Handicap (1500m).
Since switching to Chris Waller’s Sydney base, Wairere Falls has been a revelation as he’s rounded up his rivals for soft wins at Hawkesbury and Kensington.
“He’s very progressive, he’s done everything right so far since he’s been in Sydney,’’ he said.
“He’s appreciated being kept fresh to 1500m and being ridden a bit more quietly than he was in Melbourne and he’s been hitting the line very well doing so."
The gelding ran a 35.55 last 600m (Punter's Intelligence) at Kensington and that was four lengths faster than anything else in the race.
He hasn’t raced since that win on October 28 but cruised around in a Rosehill trial recently and Berry is just hoping the race is run to allow him to pick them up again.
“Any horse that gets back needs speed on, they can’t run silly times in the sort of grade he’s in,'' he said.
“He’s a nice honest horse, his trial was really good the other day and I’d suggest he will need a little bit of speed on to get over the top of them.”
Wairere Falls wins at Kensington on October 28
Wairere Falls is a $6 chance with TAB while Berry is enthusiastic about the way stablemate Hulk is racing and sees that gelding as the main threat to Destination in the Evergreen Turf Australia Handicap (1000m).
Berry said Hulk, $5.50 with TAB, was a shade unlucky not to catch Switched at Rosehill on October 31.
“He probably should have won last start, he copped a bit of interference about 150m after the start, and he should have settled a pair closer and if he did he arguably wins,’’ he said.
“Horses like him they get a win and it boosts their confidence and he got a lot of confidence out of his win at Warwick Farm (three starts back).
“He’s drawn a nice gate where he will get a nice smother behind the speed again. Destination looks like the horse with the best form around it so it will be a good little battle.”