Garry White readily admits Military Academy’s win strike rate (2 from 24 starts) is poor - at the same time, the experienced Hawkesbury trainer says his “incredibly honest gelding” who has been placed on nine occasions has found “the right race” to break back into the winning list on his home track on Thursday.
Last season’s Hawkesbury premiership-winning rider Rachel King has been aboard Military Academy at five of his last six starts, and again partners him in the Happy 50th Birthday Peter Conditional Open Handicap (1300m).
Both the gelding’s wins have been at home; the latest more than two years ago in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1000m) on a heavy track.
At his last start, Military Academy chased home Get The Idea, conceding him 1kg, in a 1400m Benchmark 64 Handicap – again on heavy ground – at Hawkesbury on September 10.
White has taken confidence from King’s comments that day to believe his six-year-old can clinch an overdue victory tomorrow.
“Rachel rode Get The Idea as a three-year-old in the Rosehill Guineas in the autumn, and said he is a pretty smart horse (three wins from six starts so far) and not to be disappointed we finished second,” White said this morning.
“Military Academy should have beaten Rabbit Clause in a similar race over 1300m here last month. He struck interference at a crucial stage at the 600m (highlighted in the stewards’ report that day) and was only just over a length from him at the post.
“Between those two Hawkesbury runs, he was an excellent fourth in midweek company (winner Bartley was subsequently placed in Saturday grade at Flemington) at Warwick Farm, so there is nothing wrong with his form at all.
“These conditional races are restricted to horses who have raced at least four times in provincial and country areas in the last year, and being an Open Handicap tomorrow, Military Academy drops 3kg to 57.5kg. Provided he gets good speed and can relax in the first four or five horses, this is definitely the right race for him.”
White returns superbly-bred Camelot stallion War Cabinet (Sam Clipperton) to the races for his first start in nine months in the Blue Datto Foundation Provincial & Country Maiden Handicap (1300m). The five-year-old, who has been placed at three of his six starts, hasn’t raced since mid-December.
“War Cabinet sustained a badly quartered heel in an incident when placed on debut at Kembla Grange in February last year, and that’s why he has been so sparingly raced,” White explained. “He gives the indication that he will run 2000m, but it’s a matter of being able to race him and get him fit to get up to that distance.”
White has accepted with both Brown Thomas (Clipperton) and Timely Shadow (King) in the Friday’s On The Terrace Benchmark 64 Handicap (1800m), but is yet to decide if he will run both.
“I scratched Brown Thomas from a 1550m race at Canterbury today as he was an emergency and drew the outside barrier, and the 1800m tomorrow suits him better anyway,” White said. “He has drawn well and finds a winnable race.
“I also have Timely Shadow in a Class 1 Showcase Handicap (1800m) at the Bathurst Cup meeting on Sunday, but want to check the track condition as it is already a ‘Heavy 10’ and more rain is forecast later in the week.”
Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup has opted to run dual acceptor Supertanker (King) in War Cabinet’s race tomorrow rather than the Pink Finss Charity Maiden Plate over the same distance.
“I had to make a decision by 5pm yesterday under the rules, and felt it was best to keep her against provincial and country-trained horses,” Widdup explained. “I’m happy with her, and she gets her chance to break through.”
A Brazen Beau three-year-old, the filly has been placed at two of her four starts; the latest when third to Adamas Prince (fourth placed Destacado won at Wyong yesterday) in a similar race on heavy ground at Hawkesbury a fortnight ago.
Zoustar three-year-old Yulong Code (Jason Collett), a half-brother to this year’s ATC Australian Derby winner Quick Thinker, is a Canterbury absentee today to line up in the Pink Finss Maiden Plate.
Elizabeel (Robbie Dolan) and Sweet Reply (Tommy Berry) also bypass the Canterbury meeting, and will be rivals in the New Haven Farm Home F&M Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m), taking on Sky Racing analyst’s Paul Joice’s best bet Close To Me (King).
The rail is 3m out from the 1100m to the 450m, and in the TRUE position for the remainder. Course manager Rick Johnston this morning posted a “Soft 5” rating, with a penetrometer reading of 5.24.
PAUL JOICE'S SELECTIONS
RACE 1: VIBRANT, Shadow Colour, Octagon.
RACE 2: YULONG CODE, Explosive Truth, El Buena.
RACE 3: LUVOIR, Well Known, Cordyceps Miracle.
RACE 4: CLOSE TO ME, Sweet Reply, Elizabeel.
RACE 5: LORD OLYMPUS, Conscript, Riccardo.
RACE 6: SUPERTANKER, Luminoso, Disengage.
RACE 7: ASUDEM, Military Academy, Zell.
RACE 8: LA TIGRESA, Moon Panther, Castel Sant’angelo.
BEST: CLOSE TO ME, LORD OLYMPUS, SUPERTANKER