Trainer Joe Pride is banking on a better racing surface at Randwick on Saturday to help Rock Sturdy back into the winner’s stall in the Group 3 $125,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m).
Rock Sturdy was a well beaten fourth as the $2.30 favourite in the 1400m BenchMark 80 Handicap at Randwick on September 6 and Pride puts the defeat down to the heavy track conditions.
“I’m using that excuse. He did win on a heavy track before but in his defence he had first use of the track before the rain came,’ Pride told the Sportsman.
“Then he got last use of it, after rain, and I think it went to pieces.”
Rock Sturdy is considered a lightweight chance in the Group 1 $500,000 The Star Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on October 4 and a win in the Bill Ritchie Handicap will get him into the Spring Carnival feature ‘Mile’ because of the ballot free conditions of the race.
Rock Sturdy has worked his way up through the grades and will drop 6kgs on his last start flop and carry a more comfortable 54kgs with Corey Brown to take over from the suspended Hugh Bowman.
Bowman was suspended for careless riding at the Kembla Grange meeting on September 9 and will be able to resume riding on September 26, making him available for the Golden Pendant Race Day at Rosehill the next day.
Pride will also use the form line around the Peter and Paul Snowden trained Cluster who was beaten on a heavy track two starts back and then came out to win the Group 2 $200,000 Theo Marks Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on September 13 on a better track.
Cluster was a narrow winner over Rock Sturdy in restricted class four starts back in July and Pride pointed out that there wasn’t much between the two four-year-olds.
“You saw Cluster, that we clashed with earlier, who got beaten on a heavy track at Rosehill, was well up in grade last week and blew them away,” Pride said.
Bookmakers agree with Pride that Rock Sturdy will be back to his best on top of the ground with Ladbrokes.com.au installing him as the $2.60 favourite for the Bill Ritchie Handicap.
The Gai Waterhouse trained Pheidon is the second pick at $4.40 and is also coming off a heavy track flop when ninth to Lucia Valentina in the Group 2 $175,000 Tattersalls Club Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 6.
The topweight Monton is next in the betting at $5.50 ahead of Tougher Than Ever at $8, Riva De Lago and Aussies Love Sport at $9 and Manawanui at $14.
In Epsom Handicap betting Rock Sturdy is at the healthy odds of $26.