New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Rocket Spade is likely to be seen in action at Tauranga this weekend, where the Group One winner will step out over a mile for trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.
The three-year-old colt is being readied for a tilt at the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m), which will now be run on April 10 at Randwick, with the remainder of the Sydney Autumn Carnival pushed back a week due to heavy rain over the past eight days.
“He pulled up really well from his New Zealand Derby win,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s just carried on as per normal as if it was any race in his prep so Andrew and I are delighted with the way he’s come through it.
“He will now race this Saturday at Tauranga in the three-year-old mile or the Japan Trophy (Group 2, 1600m) with a preference to the three-year-old race.”
Rocket Spade was originally pencilled in to trial at Taupo on Tuesday, but those trials have been
The Matamata horseman has cautioned punters that Saturday’s race is not a target as the stable attempt to have the colt peak again for the Australian Derby.
“I’d be very surprised if he figured in the finish on Saturday, he’s being prepared to run a mile and a half,” O’Sullivan said.
“After coming off a Derby prep, it’s very difficult to see him running a sharp mile around Tauranga. It’s a race that has been added because of the Sydney carnival being pushed back a week. We just felt it was too far in between runs and we didn’t want to trial him on the synthetic track.
“The grand final was the New Zealand Derby and it was always going to be. Anything beyond that is a bonus. He has won his Derby and that was the original plan.
“With the carnival being pushed back another week, it has probably helped us if anything. It has given us a little bit longer to get his legs freshened and with it being five weeks in between runs, we have opted to give him the extra race over a mile. We’re certainly under no illusion, it will be no easy task to peak him twice in the one campaign.”
Stablemate Force Of Will could potentially clash with Rocket Spade at Tauranga on Saturday, as her trainers navigate the most suitable path towards the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m), which will now take place on April 3 at Rosehill, with her trainers hoping for drying weather in Sydney between now and then.
A winner of four of her five starts, Force Of Will has never been tried on rain-affected going and her wet track ability will not be tested this week, with the Tauranga surface likely to be good.
“I suppose with Force of Will in Sydney, it does put a question mark on her — we think that on top of the ground she’s far better,” O’Sullivan said.
“We hope to take her to Tauranga and do something with her, whether we race her or gallop her between races, we’re not 100 percent sure.”
The star jockey turned Group One trainer said having a horse that can handle rain-affected conditions is a big asset when looking towards Sydney autumn campaigns.
“A couple of years ago the tracks were pretty good and we wanted a track with a bit of give in it. In the past it certainly has shown you’re more inclined to get a wet track there as opposed to a good one. You’ve got have the right sort of horse to cope with the conditions.
“Having said that, their wet is different to our wet. It is Kikuyu grass and they certainly don’t go in as far as they do here in New Zealand. It’s testing all the same so you do need a horse that can handle some give in the ground.”
O’Sullivan confirmed that veteran stayer Charles Road remained on a path towards the Group 2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m) at Randwick on April 10 after his gallant runner-up finish in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m).
“The plan was to get him across and run him in the Chairman’s which is a race he was successful in three years back,” O’Sullivan said
“There’s nothing left for him here and, even though he is getting older, based on his last run it’s certainly difficult to put up an argument for him not going over, that’s for sure.”