Ritchie seeks Group 1 glory at Ellerslie

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Dawn Patrol

Cambridge trainer Frank Ritchie will be looking for more success at Ellerslie’s Christmas-New Year Carnival on Wednesday after Fiscal Fantasy’s Group 1 runner-up performance in the Zabeel Classic (2000m) on Boxing Day.

Ritchie was delighted with the result, but said because of her petite size Fiscal Fantasy is reliant on good barrier draws. “As I have said many times she is the ultimate racehorse, she never goes a bad race,” he said. “Statistically, the races that she has been able to win have come from good draws. Part of that is because she is so small. “Unless a gap is big enough they just push her around. She has been beaten by that scenario a few times, so the good draws are helpful and it worked out well for us to get one in a Group 1 race and she ran accordingly.”

Ritchie is pleased with the way she has come through the race and he is now eyeing the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Trentham Stakes (2100m) next month with his charge. “She has come through the race terrifically,” he said. “Those Group 1 races are pretty tough and pretty hard on them. You like to be sure that they have recovered and she has recovered brilliantly. “The Trentham Stakes and the Herbie Dyke (Group 1, 2000m) were the next two on the list for her. “I thought she might miss Wellington if she didn’t recover, but at this point she has recovered and it is still on the table.”

While he came close to Group 1 glory on the opening day of the carnival, Ritchie is hoping to go one better on New Year’s Day when enigmatic galloper Dawn Patrol contests the Group 1 Sistema Railway (1200m).

The winner of the Group 3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m) at Rotorua in October, Dawn Patrol heads into Saturday off the back of an unplaced run over 1200m at Ellerslie earlier this month and Ritchie is hoping the right Dawn Patrol turns up on Wednesday. “He is what he is as a horse, you don’t know who is going to turn up on the day in terms of temperament,” he said. “He is pretty volatile and he can over-race for almost no reason at all.”

Ritchie is expecting the speed to be on for the entire 1200m journey and he said that will suit his charge perfectly. “You would expect in this race for the speed to be on right from the start. Some of those nice speed horses that have drawn out wide, you would expect them to go back in a 14 horse field,” he said. “I am picking the speed will be on and it will be hard to see them slowing it down. I think the moment one tries to another will take over.

“That will suit him perfectly from the good draw (3). We have been purposefully trying to get him to drop out of the races a bit to settle, but this time we will be keen to get right in behind the pace. “If he does that, and if he settles, and if they go fast – all the ifs – he will be a big chance. He is very talented and if he had Fiscal Fantasy’s temperament he would be a superstar. But you just don’t know with him.”

All going to plan, Dawn Patrol will head south to Trentham to target the Group 1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) on January 18. “I am keener on the Telegraph because I do think he goes better left-handed,” Ritchie said. “I have always thought the Telegraph was his race because of the way it is run, it is always run at speed. You are rarely stuck for room and it gives him a chance to sprint. “I think his secret weapon is that he can still sprint off high speed and that’s a big plus.”

Meanwhile, Ritchie’s other big hope of the day is Kya Khoob Lagti Ho who will contest the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final (2400m). The four-year-old daughter of Pierro has won two of her last three starts, including a short-neck victory over 2400m at Te Rapa earlier this month.

“She is quite a talented little mare, there is not much of her,” Ritchie said. “She is not as small as Fiscal Fantasy but she is quite light-framed. She is talented and stays pretty well. “She has just thrived. She can be a little temperamental as well, but since that last start she has settled very well and I am very happy with her in every way – physically and mentally. “I think she will go a big race.”

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