By Ray Hickson
He’s been around long enough to know not to go counting any chickens when it comes to a horse’s potential but trainer Robert Price believes there’s something special about Count De Rupee.
The fact Price, who trains Count De Rupee at Kembla in partnership with his son Luke, forked out around $150,000 to secure him for his owners tells you that.
While the $100,000 Magic Millions Wyong 3&4YO Stakes (1100m) represents a decent jump in class for the lightly raced three-year-old Price said the owners have already knocked back Hong Kong interest and he’s keen to find out where the horse stands.
“The fellows that are in this horse deserve a good horse because they’ve supported Luke and I since day dot and they’ve chased a horse like this,’’ Price said.
“They’ve knocked back a lot of offers from Hong Kong. He’s been popular, three-year-old geldings always are.
“But I doubt if they’d sell him. They’re not young guys, I wouldn’t say they don’t need any more money but you can take memories to your grave and you can’t take money.”
Price said what he paid for Count De Rupee is about as high as he’d go so what was it about the son of Real Impact that was so appealing?
The gelding’s dam Timeless Choice is a full sister to former champion sprinter Lankan Rupee and a chance meeting with jockey James McDonald at the sales gave him a push for the stallion's prowess.
“I ran into James McDonald when I was walking around and I said ‘you used to ride Real Impact didn’t you James’,’’ Price said.
“He said it was one of the strongest horses he’d ever saddled, it was a good endorsement for the stallion.
“The pedigree was there, he looked so athletic, I just had to have him. I did a bit of arm twisting but we got it over the line.”
Count De Rupee has had four starts for two wins and it was hard to miss his performance when resuming from a spell on his home track on November 28.
He sat wide on the speed and when jockey Mitchell Bell asked him to go he powered away to win by almost four lengths. That encouraged Price to take the punt on a race against the likes of Eleven Eleven, stakes placed Spaceboy and Black Opal winner Barbaric.
“It’s a monumental jump in grade from a provincial Class 1 win but from the first time we’ve done something with him he always showed something special,’’ he said.
“I always thought he could win (first-up), I never wavered. My instructions to the rider were to sit there and keep him comfortable, I didn’t think he was going to be three deep but he had him comfortable.
Count De Rupee wins at Kembla Grange on November 28
“(Wednesday) afternoon I’ll be able to answer all the questions and he’s going to help me do that.”
Price said Count De Rupee has done so well since his first-up in “you can nearly see your face in his coat” and while there is an obvious question mark on a wet track he can only hope he falls on the Lankan Rupee side of wet track ability.
Tommy Berry takes the ride in the Magic Millions event, Price is keen to head to the Gold Coast with him if he measures up, where he’d firmed from $13 into $6 by Tuesday afternoon with TAB.
“I think barrier one will be good guidance for him, Tommy is in good form, there’s plenty of positives about him,’’ Price said.
“Spaceboy has good speed, we’ll probably be on his back I’d say. That’s Tommy’s thing, he’s still very green this horse and is going to get better every time we produce him.”