Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie admits to a slight distance concern with last-start winner Saipan at Ballina today but still expects the consistent winner to get the job done again. Saipan ($1.85 favourite with TAB fixed odds) chases his ninth win from 25 starts when he lines up in the Spill The Beans@Aquis Farm Open Hcp (1260m).
The five-year-old resumed for a strong win in an Open Handicap (1000m) at Murwillumbah with 58.5kg on November 17 with leading rider Jeff Lloyd in the saddle. Currie this time has booked 1.5kg-claiming apprentice Baylee Nothdurft for Monday's race, reducing Saipan's burden to 59.5kg.
Nothdurft, apprenticed to fellow Toowoomba trainer Lindsay Hatch, has had one previous ride on Saipan for a victory at Toowoomba back on May 20 this year. Saipan has been a consistent winner for Currie since joining his stable just over 12 months ago.
Previously with Rosehill trainer Gary Moore before moving north to Bryan Guy's stable on the Gold Coast, Saipan has won seven races - including five at Toowoomba' Clifford Park - from his past 13 starts for Currie. His overall record now reads eight wins, four minor placings and $90,885 in prizemoney from his 24 starts.
"Not sure why he couldn't get going earlier in his career, but he really hasn't put a foot wrong since we've had him. He just seems to have thrived up here in our system in Toowoomba and has been very consistent," said Currie. "He got back a little further than we expected when he resumed at Murwillumbah the other day but he was too strong from them at the finish.
"His second-up runs have all been good and Monday's race certainly looks another winnable race for him. I guess my one concern is he's now getting out to 1260m. He has won around that trip before, but really it's as far as he wants - 1100m would have been ideal. But we'll ride him quietly again and from gate three he should be very hard to beat."
The Ballina track is rated a soft 5 and Currie will be happy enough if it stays in around that range: "The likely sting out of the track at Ballina would be ideal for him," he said.
Saipan clearly looks the one to beat against his seven rivals in Monday's field. One rival is the locally-trained mare Aquajewel ($8.50) who is chasing a winning hat-trick on her home track after Benchmark 60 and 61 wins there on November 6 and 13. However, her best form to date has been in heavy conditions when she has won four of her five starts.
Apprentice Baylee Nothdruft's one other ride at Ballina after he links with Saipan is aboard the Lindsay Hatch-trained Mr Chow ($4.20) who is resuming in the Class 2 Hcp (1010m) and has to overcome a tricky outside draw. The Commands four-year-old is unbeaten in two starts for Hatch after starting his career in Sydney with Bjorn Baker.
Mr Chow won back-to-back races from his only two starts last preparation - a Toowoomba maiden by six lengths on June 24 and a Grafton Benchmark 55 Hcp at the Ramornie Hcp meeting on July 12.