Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s assault on the riches of the Melbourne Spring Carnival is starting to gain momentum as witnessed by Jon Snow’s game performance at Flemington on Saturday.
The former Gr.1 ATC Derby (2400m) winner showed he is right on track for the staying features on offer over the next two months when he fought doggedly to snatch third in the Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) behind impressive winner Grunt.
The Iffraaj five-year-old performed with distinction in Melbourne last spring where he captured the Gr.3 JRA Cup (2040m) at Moonee Valley, and a third placing in the Gr.1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) before producing a creditable effort when unplaced in the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) to round out his campaign.
“I thought he was very good on Saturday as it was only his second run back and he will take a ton of improvement from it,” Baker said.
“It was an outstanding field with nine Group One winners in it, so to see him fight on so strongly was very pleasing. The track was also pretty firm which isn’t really to his liking, although he has pulled up well this morning so he’s definitely on the way up.”
Baker will now consider a start in the Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 30 for his charge, a race where he could be joined by stablemate Bonneval who kicked off her campaign with an unplaced run at Moonee Valley last weekend.
“I’m not quite sure where we will go next with Jon Snow but the Underwood at Caulfield is a likely option for him,” he said.
“Bonneval is going there as well and I will be looking for an improved showing from her. I wasn’t disappointed with her race at Moonee Valley as she had only had the one trial leading in to it, so we were behind the eight ball a bit with her.
“It was a real front-runners track that day so when she got back that was really her day done. She finished off okay and has come on since then, so I think she will be more competitive in this one.”
Bonneval will look to defend her title in the Underwood having produced a strong performance to take out the Group One feature last season. That victory added to Baker’s outstanding record in the feature, having also captured the event with The Phantom (1990), Lion Tamer (2011) and It’s A Dundeel (2013).
Baker is also looking forward to two promising three-year-olds joining their Flemington based team for the Carnival with Botti and Peaceful touching down in Melbourne on Sunday.
“It will be good to have Botti and Peaceful here as they are both nice types that we have high hopes for,” he said.
“They will join Rubira, who is already here, with the three-year-old features as their main aims.
“Botti looks a real staying type so the goal is to get him to the Victoria Derby. He is a three-quarter brother to Lion Tamer who won the Derby in 2010 so his breeding and racing style suggests he can get the 2500m trip.
“You’ve got to have a shot when you can as they are only three once.
“Rubira is also a nice staying type, so the Oaks will be her main aim while Peaceful looks more like a 1000 Guineas type of filly, so that’s the race we would like to get her to.
“The main aim is to try and pick up some Australian black-type with both of those fillies.”
Baker also has a Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) chance in Zacada, who will be aimed towards the A$7 million feature.
Bred and raced by dairy farmers Andrew Bryant and Dave Armstrong, in conjunction with their former Cambridge neighbours Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan, the son of Zabeel is qualified for the Cup courtesy of his runner-up finish in this year’s Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m).
“Zacada has come on from his first-up run at Hastings, so we are now looking at options for his next start,” Baker said.
“He could run at Caufield this weekend (Gr.3 Naturalism Stakes, 2000m) while a race like the Moonee Valley Gold Cup is another option further down the track.
“He’s got 53kgs in the Cup and is fully qualified, although he’s sitting at 46th in the order of entry, so we will just have to see how the field drops away, but I would expect he should make it in if previous years are any indication.” – NZ Racing Desk