Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is excited heading into the Christmas-New Year period with his in-form racing team.
Heading that list is High Chaparral four-year-old The Good Fight who recorded his second career win from eight starts in the Pathways – The Immigration Specialists Premier (2400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Ritchie has a lot of time for the gelding, who he purchased out of Rich Hill Stud’s 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft for $300,000, but said he still has a bit of maturing to do.
“He’s a beautiful type of horse with a good pedigree and he’s starting to show that now,” Ritchie said.
“It’s very hard to win $300,000 back, he’s got to do a lot more yet, but fortunately he’s starting to step up to the plate and showing what his pedigree and physique is allowing him to do.”
While he has nominated The Good Fight for the Gr.3 NZ campus For Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) at Trentham next month, his main target for the summer is the Dunstan Feeds Championship Final (2200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“The world is his oyster, but it is very hard to know how high we can aim,” Ritchie said.
“I have nominated him for the Wellington Cup, but he’s going to run in the Dunstan Final (at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day) and then we’ll take a breath and have a look.
“He’s just got a bit of maturing to go and I’d just like to see 12 to 15 more kilograms on him before we take on the open horses.
“We just might give him a little breather after the Dunstan Final. We have got Excalibur in line for the Wellington Cup too, so the stablemate might have to hold the flag for the stable there.”
Ritchie is bullish about Excalibur’s chances in the Wellington Cup after his fourth placing behind Mongolian Marshal in the Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“That’s his goal race (the Wellington Cup) and he hit the line very well on Saturday,” Ritchie said.
“We had a few feet issues with him. His first two runs were superb, but he got a little infection in his feet and we had to put the bar plates on him on Saturday and they will be coming off next time.
“If those top couple in the market pull out, I’d say that 18-1 on him is looking pretty good.”
Meanwhile, Ritchie is looking forward to lining up Sultan of Swing in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day after his win in the Gr.3 J Swap Contractors Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“I’m pretty keen to get him up over a mile,” Ritchie said. “He used to be very good as a sprinter fresh-up, but now he’s a year older he’s racing back in the field a little bit and with these 1400m and mile races being run at a good clip I think it will suit him.”
Although pleased with Saturday’s win, Ritchie does hold some concerns about the way his charge is finishing his races of late.
“He’s been a very good horse. His form is remarkably consistent, but in his last couple of starts he’s looked like he’s had an unwillingness to win races,” Ritchie said.
“He went up alongside Magnum (on Saturday) like he was going to win and then he got headed. I thought he was going to give it away again, but he kicked back on the line.
“He’s not running his races truly to the line and I have no idea why. He’s vetted up all good and he’s racing in pretty good form, but it’s just a little bit of a concern that he’s not attacking the line like he was as a younger horse.”
All going to plan, Sultan of Swing could be set for bigger targets next year.
“If he did happen to win the Rich Hill, we’d probably back off and have a look at the 1400m weight-for-age race at Te Rapa and maybe the Otaki Group One mile.” – NZ Racing Desk