Lightweight Epsom hope Rock Sturdy is set to keep trainer Joe Pride’s winners flowing when he lines up in the $85,000 TAB Rewards Handicap (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Rock Sturdy was one of four winners Pride trained at Randwick on August 23 and the Warwick Farm trainer believes he is a lightweight chance in the Group 1 $500,000 The Star Epsom (1600m) at Randwick on October 4.
The Fastnet Rock four year old is chasing a hat trick after wins in restricted class over 1350m at Rosehill on August 2 and his win on the heavy over 1400m at his last start and another win this weekend will give Pride plenty of ammunition to head towards the feature 1600m Handicap at Randwick.
Pride has picked out the Group 3 $125,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Randwick on September 20 as Rock Sturdy’s next start with the winner being exempt from the ballot for The Star Epsom.
“He’s racing against the same grade on Saturday, and he just needs to maintain what he’s doing,’’ Pride told The Daily Telegraph.
“He’s really thriving at home. The upside to him is he’s yet to give you everything on race day. He always comes off the track with something in the locker. I think against the better opposition they’ll only push him more.
“I don’t expect him to wallop those horses on Saturday, because that’s not what he does, but when I step him up in grade, I expect him to lift his performance again.’’
Pride will have a busy day at Randwick with seven runners including the in-form Tiger Tees who was also one of Pride’s quartet of winners a fortnight ago.
Tiger Tees is also chasing a hat trick after wins in the Group 3 $150,000 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on August 9 and an all the way win on a soggy Randwick track in the Group 2 $175,000 Pro-Ride Warwick Stakes (1400m).
The rejuvenated sprinter is going to get another wet track in the Group 2 $175,000 Tattersalls Club Tramway Stakes (1400m) and will prove hard to run down again.
Pride is also hoping his stable favourite Rain Affair can resurrect his career with a first up win in the Group 3 $125,000 Concorde Stakes (1000m).
Rain Affair hasn’t visited the winner’s stall since taking out the 2013 Group 3 $125,000 McGrath Real Estate Agents Missile Stakes (1200m) at Randwick but will get his favourite conditions on Saturday with the Randwick track rated a slow 7 on Friday after further showers across the Sydney area.
“There’s no horse I want to win more in the stable than him,” Pride said.
“I don’t want his career to end like this. He’s been a fantastic horse for me – one of the best, if not the best – and I want to see his career continue for a little while yet.
“I’m happy with him [this preparation]. Saturday afternoon will tell us and we want to see him parade like we know he can, and he’ll race well if he does that.”
Pride’s other Concorde Stakes runner, last start winner Target In Sight, is stepping up from restricted class to Group 3 company.
Pride’s other feature runner is 2012 Rosehill Guineas winner Laser Hawk in the Group 2 $175,000 Tattersalls Club Chelmsford Stakes (1600m).
The former Gai Waterhouse trained Laser Hawk will be having his second run for Pride who expects a better showing after finishing eighth of nine over an unsuitable distance in the Group 2 $175,000 McGrath Estate Agents Missile Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on August 9.
Rock Sturdy is the $3.50 favourite for the TAB Rewards Handicap with Ladbrokes.com.au while Tiger Tees is the $5 second pick behind the Chris Waller trained Weary ($3.80) in the Tramway Stakes and Rain Affair is also in the betting at $7.50 in the Concorde Stakes.