Dawn Passage is primed to add The Gong to his growing list of achievements, according to co-trainer Gai Waterhouse
“I swear this horse knows when he is going to the races,’’ trainer Gai Waterhouse said.
“As (jockey) Tim Clark tells me, the Dawn Passage he works on the track or in a barrier trial is totally different to the Dawn Passage he rides in a race.
“This horse puts his ‘game face’ on for raceday.’’
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But Waterhouse acknowledges the talented Dawn Passage will need to be right on “top of his game” when he takes on a star-studded field for the $1 million The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
The Gong has attracted an outstanding line-up with 13 of the 16 starters having won at Group or Listed level previously, including three individual Group 1 winners – Olmedo, Best Of Days and Nettoyer.
The trio who have yet to win a stakes race are two-time Group 1 placegetter Reloaded, multiple Group placegetter Bottega, and last start Goulburn Cup winner Al Mah Haha.
“It is a top class field but we couldn’t be happier with Dawn Passage,’’ said Waterhouse, who trains in partnership with Adrian Bott.
“He’s a lovely ‘colt’, a class individual, and he’s had a little trial in between runs. By his standards, he was impressive winning the Wyong trial and his trackwork since has also been very good.’’
Dawn Passage, winner of five of his 13 starts and nearly $1.5 million prizemoney, goes to The Gong after third placings in the Silver Eagle and Golden Eagle.
But it seems the stars are finally aligning on a major raceday for Dawn Passage as he has drawn the rails barrier and gets a firm racing surface for The Gong.
Dawn Passage started favourite in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap earlier this year but he drew barrier 18 and did well to finish seventh, beaten just over two lengths behind Tyzone.
In the Golden Eagle last start, Dawn Passage ran bravely for third to Colette despite being inconvenienced by a very heavy track.
“He gets a dry track and the right barrier, all the little things are in his favour and you need to have that sort of luck to win these big races,’’ Waterhouse said. “I’m really looking forward to this race.’’
Dawn Passage has firmed back into equal favouritism at $4.60 with the John Thompson-trained Purple Sector for The Gong.
The Waterhouse and Bott stable are sending four starters to The Gong meeting including Rule The World ($6) in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m).
Rule The World began his career with three successive wins but then his form tapered off last season including unplaced runs behind Asiago in the Spring Stakes and stablemate Dawn Passage in the Hawkesbury Guineas.
Waterhouse said Rule The World had shown signs of recapturing his best form in two impressive trials leading into his Kembla Grange comeback.
“Rule The World will run very well, he could easily win first-up,’’ the Hall of Fame trainer said. “He’s a very talented horse and we are thrilled how he is coming up this campaign.’’
Waterhouse is also bullish about the chances of Navy Cross ($7.50) for the Benchmark 78 Handicap (2000m) and Ulusaba ($16) in the Benchmark 88 Handicap (1600m).
Both are improving with racing this spring with Navy Cross indicating he is close to a win after beating all but Archanna at Rosehill three weeks ago while Ulusaba is on a seven-day back-up after his good third to boom galloper Super at Newcastle last Saturday.
“Navy Cross is absolutely spot on and the distance is perfect for him,’’ she said.
“Ulusaba is going to be good odds as he normally is and I like back-up horses like him who is tough and competitive.’’
Waterhouse also has three big-race runners at Ballarat today including speedy juvenile Butter Blonde in the $250,000 Magic Millions 2yo Clockwise Classic (1000m).
Butter Blonde won on debut at Bendigo then ran third at Flemington over the 1000m straight course during Cup Week.
“Craig Williams wanted to stay on Butter Blonde which is a good sign and she will run a terrific race,’’ the Waterhouse said.
Stablemates Knights Order ($18) lines up in the $500,000 Ballarat Cup (2000m) and Yao Dash ($4.20 favourite) for the Benchmark 84 Handicap (1400m).
“Knights Order is coming back in trip and it will be tough for him but he’s a fit horse,’’ Waterhouse said.
“Yao Dash got a bit lost up the straight at Flemington (fourth to Exhilarates) as these Sydney horses don’t get a lot of exposure to it but he still ran a good race.
“He has trained on well, he’s is in terrific order and he can win at Ballarat.’’
STOCKMAN TO ROUND THEM UP OVER STAYING TRIP
TRAINER Joe Pride intends to set Stockman for the summer staying stakes races if he runs up to expectations in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (2000m) at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
Stockman is the $4 favourite to win his fifth race from just 12 starts and justify Pride’s ranking of the emerging stayer.
“I think he’s a really promising horse,’’ Pride said.
“He’s having his fourth run back from a spell and although I can’t wait to get him to 2400m, the Kembla race over 2000m is the right progression for him.
“The horse is in great order, the track will suit him and there looks to be a fair bit of speed in the race which will suit him.
“The tougher it gets, the better he seems to go.’’
Stockman has lost narrowly at his last two starts but is getting out to his preferred distance range now.
“We are looking at the feature staying races in coming weeks but when we get to the Christmas Cup (Listed $140,000 race at Randwick over 2400m on December 12) that might nearly see him out for this campaign,’’ Pride said.
“Once I get Stockman to 2400m he is not the sort of horse I want to bring him back in trip for a race like the Summer Cup (2000m) so we might look at the autumn with him.’’
Pride also has Proletariat in the Stockman race with the former rated only a $41 chance two unplaced runs to start his campaign.
“I’m looking to get him up to a trip,’’ Pride said. “Once he gets out to a staying trip we will see more from him.’’
Meanwhile, the release of the latest official World’s Best Racehorse rankings provided an unexpected boost for Pride.
The Everest winner Classique Legend and runner-up Bivouac have been rated the world’s best sprinters with a 125 rating.
Eduardo finished down the track in The Everest but at his previous start he split Classique Legend and Bivouac when second in The Shorts.
Pride said Eduardo is enjoying a late spring-early summer spell after his fourth to Gytrash in the Yes Yes Yes Stakes.
“I’ll get him ready for The Galazy in the autumn and then aim him towards the TJ Smith Stakes,’’ Pride said. “He did a great job in the spring and showed he can mix it with the top sprinters.’’