Jockey Tommy Berry is hopeful that progressive galloper Ecuador can record his first win at Group 1 level when he drops back in distance to contest the Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Ecuador looked as though he was working towards the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap (2400m), after recording impressive wins in the Grace Removals Handicap (1550m) at Canterbury and the McGrath Estate Agents Handicap (1800m) at Rosehill Gardens, but after he suffered an upset defeat in the Kari Aboriginal Resources Handicap (1900m) last Saturday trainer Gai Waterhouse made the decision to run the High Chaparral gelding in the $500,000 Epsom Handicap rather than the staying event.
Waterhouse believes that Ecuador is not mature enough to handle the trip of the Metropolitan Handicap and although Berry admits he was surprised by the decision still rates the four-year-old as a winning chance in his maiden Group 1 event.
“She likes to keep me on my toes,” Berry told AAP.
“Gai’s horses are always primed for this time of the year.
“Going into Group One racing, who else would you want to be riding for.”
Berry rode Ecuador when he was defeated as an odds-on favourite at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday but believes the gelding had plenty of excuses for the loss and is confident his mount will improve with only 52kg on his back in the Epsom Handicap.
“Gai will freshen him up this week,” Berry said.
“He was a little bit weak at the end of 2000 metres last week but that was more to do with the strong wind and his weight.”
Berry stamped himself as a big race jockey when he won the Epsom Handicap on Fat Al and the Metropolitan Handicap on Glencadam Gold at this meeting last year.
He will need to defy recent history to win the Epsom Handicap for the second year in a row, with no jockey winning the race back-to-back in the last thirty years, while he is aiming to become the first rider since Grant Cooksley in 1991 to win back-to-back editions of the Metropolitan Handicap when he partners Julienas in the race on Saturday.