At 31, trainer Jamie Richards makes most people seem like under-achievers.
The Matamata horseman has 47 Group One wins to his name and will send out a live chance in the AUD$5 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) on Saturday for the third year in succession.
Four-time Group One winner Probabeel will represent Richards for the second year in a row and the mare should get a much better surface than the Soft7 that thwarted her 12 months ago, when seventh.
“It is incredibly difficult to have a runner in a major like the Cox Plate for the third year in a row,” Richards said.
“We are just lucky we have David (Ellis, Te Akau principal) buying the horses and then syndicating them and then we have people like Brendan and Jo Lindsay (of Cambridge Stud) who send them to us to train.
“It is a big stable and a big process, it doesn’t just happen overnight, a lot of planning and effort goes into it. We are really proud that we have produced Te Akau Shark and Probabeel and hopefully Probabeel can run really well on the weekend.
“I followed the Cox Plate closely growing up and it is one of the pin-up races in Australasia.
“Te Akau Shark ran brilliantly when he ran third in 2019 and if the rain hadn’t arrived last year, I think Probabeel would have run a lot closer. We just have to hope we don’t get the rain and we can be running on a nice dry track on Saturday.
“It was pretty deflating when the rain came in both last year’s Cox Plate and again in the All-Star Mile for Probabeel as so much thought and effort and planning had gone into it from the whole team, only to have it undone by nature.”
There is a quiet sense of confidence in the Probabeel camp, with a feeling the mare is peaking for the race, albeit fingers are crossed that the showers forecast for Friday and Saturday don’t amount to much.
A last start winner of the Group 1 Might And Power (2000m), downing subsequent Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) runner-up Nonconformist, Probabeel is rated a +1500 chance, with the market headed by Zaaki (+170), who finished nearly two-lengths behind Probabeel in third last start.
“She is going to have to put in a career best performance to be competitive on Saturday,” Richards said.
“Hopefully she is somewhere near that. I like the fact she is going to be fifth-up. She has had that hard, tough run over 2000m at Caulfield under her belt which should stand her in good stead.
“I don’t think we need to rush her too much early from barrier 7, we can just let her find a bit of a rhythm.
“Then we will hopefully get going into the race at the right time. I think there is going to be genuine tempo particularly from 1000m onwards and we want to be within reaching distance.”
While Probabeel will be contesting a time-honoured race in Melbourne, stablemate Entriviere will line-up in the inaugural AUD$2 million The Invitation (1400m) at Randwick less than half an hour after the Cox Plate.
The five-year-old daughter of Tavistock has won six of her nine starts and has never finished out of the placings.
Successful in the Group 2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) fresh-up, Entriviere got back to last and raced wide when third in the Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m) four weeks ago, before an eye-catching trial since.
“Everything has gone according to plan. She has had a good preparation for The Invitation and that nice quiet trial kept her ticking over,” Richards said.
“She is capable on dry but effective on wet and I think there is going to be some give in the track. I’m just hoping she can run up to her best form, which the way she has been going we are hopeful she can.”
Richards said the mare would likely head for a break after Saturday’s set weights and penalties contest, where she will likely start from barrier 9 of 12.
The Invitation has been circled as the target since the new race was announced, with Richards confident the mare will have plenty of future opportunities to add a Group One to her CV.
“We hope we have got many more opportunities with her. She was a slow maturing mare that we didn’t start off till a bit later and she is lightly raced,” he said.
“We plan to race her on for another season or two yet so there is plenty of time to try and win a Group One, but we thought we would target the prizemoney at this stage.”
Closer to home Richards has four entered for Saturday’s Group 3 Matamata Veterinary Services Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) at Matamata.
Top rater Imperatriz has drawn wide in barrier 13 but also holds a nomination for Monday’s Group 2 James And Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa.
“Imperatriz is definitely going to run, she is our top seed and seems to be back where she was before Te Rapa (when winning the Group 3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes, 1200m).
“I have to put my hand up and say I shouldn’t have taken her to Hastings last start. I rushed her and she raced accordingly.
“I think she is back somewhere where she needs to be. Seven furlongs is going to be a good test for her.
“We will find out if she is likely to get 1600m (of the Guineas) at Riccarton or if we have to come up with another plan over shorter trips.”