With an overseas sale off the agenda for now, Te Awamutu trainer Stephen Ralph is free to dream big with highly talented three-year-old Explosively – starting with a first black-type test in Saturday’s Group 3 Mitchell Family Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie.
Offshore offers have circled the son of Sweynesse throughout this spring, following an impressive four-length trial win at Taupo in early October and an equally emphatic performance on debut at Te Rapa last month. “A sale to Hong Kong fell through after that trial win because one of his hocks failed their strict vetting,” Ralph said.
“There was another offer from Australia after he won at Te Rapa, which was accepted subject to vet clearance. “We disclosed to those buyers what had happened with the Hong Kong offer, and after doing their own inspections and X-rays, they declined to carry on with the deal.
“So we’ve still got him to race, which is fantastic for us. I was at the races when that news came through via text, and I said to Jamie Richards, ‘Imagine how good this horse could be if he had good hocks?’ “We haven’t seen it as an issue with him at any stage in his preparation. He’s been 100 percent sound all the way through. It’s really cool that we’ve been able to hang on to him.”
Explosively’s dominant trial victory at Taupo looks even better in hindsight, with runner-up Cheaperthandivorce winning stylishly on debut at Rotorua on Wednesday. “His trial was the quickest all day at Taupo, even better than the open-class horses,” Ralph said. “And the good win the other day by Cheaperthandivorce has really franked that form.
“That trial performance gave us a bit of confidence leading into his debut race at Te Rapa, and we were expecting him to do much the same thing there. It doesn’t always happen that way in racing, but on that occasion it worked out exactly as we’d hoped. We knew we had a horse who could jump and run, and that’s what he did. “Everything’s been really good with him since then. We’ve given him only one real gallop in between times. He’s not a big horse – he’s struggling to weigh 440kg.
“A few possible buyers have been turned off by his size as well, but size never bothers us. It’s the motor that counts. I said to them, ‘Which would you rather have – the 500kg horses, or the smaller horse that’s beating them?’”
Ralph has no fears about the step from 1200m up to 1400m on Saturday, but does have a slight reservation about jumping from the second-to-outside gate. “He hasn’t been tested yet, and now is the time to start doing that,” he said. “We feel that he’s not limited to 1200m, and that he’ll have no trouble doing 1400m on Saturday. “The barrier draw is a bit of a fly in the ointment, and there’ll be a few horses on his inside pushing forward for positions. But we know our horse has real gas out of the gates, and we see no reason to change our game-plan. We’re heading into Saturday all guns blazing.”
Explosively is raced by his breeder, Luigi Muollo’s Explosive Breeding Ltd. Muollo stands the gelding’s sire Sweynesse at Novara Park, and the second-season stallion has already been represented by stakes winners Bonita Aurelia, Only Words and Brix.
“We’re really excited for Luigi to have a horse like this, and especially for Sweynesse,” Ralph said. “We’re hoping he could be a bit of a flagbearer for the sire and he is a stallion that is going well. “A few of his progeny might be looking for a bit more ground, but this horse definitely has wheels.”