Trainer Craig Ritchie is confident that imported stayer Sir John Hawkwood will perform well when he makes his Australian racing debut in the Programmed Property Services Handicap (2000m) at Caulfield on Sunday.
Sir John Hawkwood was purchased to be a Melbourne Cup runner by Waratah Bloodstock and joined Ritchie’s stable after he finished seventh in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) during the 2013 Royal Ascot Meeting.
Ritchie has been patient with the four-year-old, electing not to run him in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield last weekend, and will give him his first taste of Australian racing over 2000 metres with 60kg on his back this weekend.
“We are kicking off on Sunday, it seems like a nice race for him and onwards and upwards from there,” Ritchie told Sky Racing HQ.
“He is on ninety points and he would not have gotten a run (in the Naturalism Stakes) and I probably wanted an extra week with the horse before I gave him a start.
“I was happy to step him up to ten furlongs first-up but I needed that extra week to tune him up.”
Sir John Hawkwood impressed with a barrier trial victory at Cranbourne on September 9 and Ritchie believes that he will run well on Saturday despite not being set for the race.
“I think there are a lot of questions to be answered,” Ritchie said.
“He is ready but he certainly hasn’t been tuned for the race.
“I am confident that he will go well; whether he wins the race or not remains to be seen.”
The son of Sir Percy has had plenty of time to settle in Australia and although Ritchie said it took the Melbourne Cup hopeful a while to adjust to Australian training methods he has been delighted with the improvement that he has shown in recent weeks
“The horse has got a great demeanor, a great attitude and a very healthy appetite,” Ritchie said.
“He has taken just a while to adjust to our style of training, particularly our style of gallops, but he has improved with each gallop and has warmed up to it nicely.
“The way that he trialed showed that he has learnt to get on the back of other horses and chase nicely.
“To be honest I am a little concerned whether he is a dead set stayer or not.
“He shows a good turn of foot in his work and relaxes very well.”
Sir John Hawkwood is currently well down the order of entry for both the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Melbourne Cup (3200m) and will need to win a ballot-exempt event to earn a run in either race.
Ritchie said the import will run in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on October 12, if he performs well on Sunday, while the Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m) and Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) both loom as possible ways to get into the Melbourne Cup field.