Trainer Gai Waterhouse is confident that progressive gelding Ecuador can secure a start in the 2014 Doncaster Mile (1600m) by winning the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Ecuador is currently sitting equal 48th in the order of entry for the Doncaster Mile, but can guarantee himself a start in the $3 million race by taking out the Ajax Stakes, which offers ballot-exempt entry to the winner.
The talented gelding first garnered the attention of the Australian racing public with two dominant wins in the Grace Removals Handicap (1550m) and McGrath Estate Agents Handicap (1800m) during the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival.
Waterhouse included Ecuador in the entries for the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and the four-year-old was extremely well-backed before finishing sixth – just a length behind the winner Boban.
Ecuador started his 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival with two straight wins, taking out the TAB Rewards Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on February 15 and the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1400m) at the same venue on March 1, and Waterhouse believes that the talented galloper can make it three wins in a row in the Ajax Stakes this weekend.
“He could easily win again,” Waterhouse told Racing Ahead this morning.
“He has done everything right and I am really delighted with him.
“He is a lightly framed son of High Chaparral and he is just thriving.
“He doesn’t have to bustled, he does it himself and he knows where the winning post is.
“He races in any conditions and he is a dream horse.”
Another horse whose connections are chasing ballot-exempt entry into the Doncaster Mile is Michael Moroney-trained Rhythm To Spare, who made his Group 1 debut with a seventh place finish in the Emirates Stakes (1600m) last year.
Rhythm To Spare resumed with a fair sixth behind Sistine Demon in the Listed Super Saturday Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on March 8 and Moroney is expecting a strong effort from the son of Pins this weekend.
“He’s in good shape and ready to tackle this quality of field,” Moroney told TVN.
“I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t run well.”
Ecuador ($3.20) is currently a narrow favourite in Ajax Stakes betting markets from Team Hawkes-trained Messene ($3.50) and imported galloper Mouro ($7), while Rhythm To Spare is available at the generous quote of $16.