Matamata trainer Graham Richardson is pleased with his Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) winner Sponge Bob heading into Saturday’s Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), with the lightly-tried three-year-old having his first look at Ellerslie this morning.
“Sponge Bob galloped on the course proper at Ellerslie this morning and he went up and followed a couple around but he worked by himself,” Richardson, who trains in partnership with Gavin Parker, said.
“It was his first time there and he never flinched, he didn’t shy or gawk and there are a lot of things to take-in at Ellerslie.
“Especially for first timers, you can get them beat if they don’t know what they’re doing up there.
“I was more than happy with the way he worked. I left the blinkers off so that he could have a decent look at everything.
“Troy Harris came up and rode him and is very happy with him. The track was a slow7 in Troy’s opinion and that is just perfect.
“I can’t wait to see how he goes on Saturday in the Derby.”
The owners of Sponge Bob, The Wrinkly Tin Syndicate, paid a $30,000 late entry fee for the Derby after the son of Keeper had failed to flatter earlier in the piece.
“He showed absolutely nothing earlier on in the piece and these early noms to me are a nightmare,” Richardson said.
“If they don’t show much in the early stages, then I hate wasting people’s money. But he has now shown it and paid his way, so let’s have a go.”
Meanwhile, Richardson admitted to being disappointed by the performance of stable star Volpe Veloce, who finished a well-beaten eighth in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm Classic (1600m) won by Melody Belle.
“She never looked like she was travelling at all,” Richardson said.
“She got her head stretched out and Troy (Harris) just said she didn’t handle that track.
“She came home and she didn’t eat much, so I have tipped her out in the spelling paddock for at least a week.
“I haven’t confirmed what we’re going to do, but obviously, I have to work back from the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) at Te Aroha.”
Richardson said the mare would be better suited to racing right-handed. – NZ Racing Desk