In almost any other year, Hugh Bowman would be preparing to ride at Brisbane’s flagship winter carnival meeting.
But against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, he instead finds himself heading to Randwick on Saturday for a motley crew of winter rides.
Among them is multiple stakes winner Tactical Advantage, who will clash with top sprinter Classique Legend in the Listed Bob Charley AO Stakes (1100m).
Good enough to earn a slot in last year’s Everest and desperately unlucky not to figure in the finish, Classique Legend makes an off-season appearance after owner Bon Ho aborted the horse’s move to Hong Kong.
Needing to race to get on back on track for a second shot at the rich sprint, Classique Legend will head to Randwick to blow out the cobwebs and is clearly the horse to beat.
“You’d think he would have the race at his mercy and the way he trialled the other day, it looks as if he’s going well,” Bowman said.
Not that the jockey ever concedes defeat.
Bowman is the first to admit Tactical Advantage can mix his form, his racing pattern reliant on tempo and luck.
But when he does get the breaks, the Kris Lees-trained gelding can produce a stunning turn of foot, as he did two starts ago to win the Hawkesbury Rush at Rosehill.
He didn’t feature last time out in a Takeover Target Stakes dominated by the on-speed horses but with conditions to suit and any chink in Classique Legend’s armour, Tactical Advantage is capable of upsetting the favourite.
“I don’t think he was that disappointing (last start), he just went so well the start before and he needs races run to suit him,” Bowman said.
“When it goes his way and he can settle just off the pace, be held up til late and come with a burst late, he can really go well.”
The Bob Charley, formerly the June Stakes, is likely to be reduced to 11 runners with dual acceptor Catesby a scratching and Brad Widdup indicating Adelong is unlikely to back-up from her victory last weekend.
Bowman has a full book of nine rides at Randwick including three for Godolphin highlighted by in-form gelding Phaistos.
A winner with Bowman aboard two starts ago, Phaistos was narrowly denied in the Scone Cup last start and is favoured to return to the winners’ list.
“He’s flying,” Bowman said.
“His form has been consistent all prep and it looks another ideal target for him.”