Trainer Joseph Pride has revealed that Rock Sturdy will need to run well in the 2014 Shannon Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday to be any chance of backing up in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick a week later.
Rock Sturdy stamped himself as a 2014 Spring Racing Carnival contender with two strong wins at Rosehill Gardens on August 2 and Royal Randwick on August 23 before struggling under a heavy weight on a wet track at Royal Randwick on September 6.
The Fastnet Rock entire made his debut at Group level in the Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday and he finished a credible second behind the resuming Manawanui.
Pride admitted that he was disappointed Rock Sturdy was unable to secure a place in the Epsom Handicap field with a win in the Bill Ritchie Handicap, but told Sky Racing HQ that he was happy to give the four-year-old another opportunity at Group level in the Shannon Stakes.
“It is just an open plan with him going forward,” Pride said.
“I was really hoping that we would come out and win last week and we could take him straight to the Epsom.
“An Epsom start hasn’t been ruled out, but we need to see something good from him on Saturday.
“He is a good, tough colt and nothing worries him.”
The 2014 Shannon Stakes field includes plenty of talent and Rock Sturdy will need to produce an impressive performance to claim a maiden victory at Group level.
Leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller has included Vilanova, Rugged Cross and Tougher Than Ever in the acceptances for the race, while Gai Waterhouse (Excess Knowledge and Liberty’s Choice) and Team Hawkes (Ninth Legion and Zephyron) will also have multiple runners in the Shannon Stakes field.
One of the most interesting runners in the Shannon Stakes field is 2013 Crown Oaks winner Kirramosa, who could be having her second race start in as many weeks in the Group 2 event.
Kirramosa has been set for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18, but her preparation has been affected by the wet tracks in Sydney and trainer John Sargent is facing a race against time to have the four-year-old ready for the $3 million event.
Brian Smith-trained Jetset Lad (barrier seven), last start winner Epic (barrier five), imported stayer Midsummer Sun (barrier four), Rowley Mile winner Mr Chard (barrier 13) and Anthony Cummings-trained Liberty’s Choice (barrier nine) round out the Shannon Stakes field.