Pat Carey-trained Ethiopia will continue to work towards the Caulfield Cup when he takes on a star-studded field in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Ethiopia started his 2013 Spring Racing Carnival with a strong performance in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington a fortnight ago, producing a promising on-pace effort to finish fifth behind Foreteller.
Carey said that he was happy with the first-up run and told Racing Ahead this morning that the five-year-old had taken plenty of improvement out of the race and will be even better in the Underwood this weekend.
“We are really pleased with how he has come on from the Makybe Diva,” Carey said.
“He has taken great benefit from the run and is making good progress.
“He is a much more mature horse and a horse that does as much as necessary and as little possible on the track.”
Ever since his front-running effort in the 2012 Cox Plate (2040m) Ethiopia has generally been ridden close to the pace but Carey has revealed that he is hoping that regular jockey Rhys Mcleod will be able to ride the Helenus gelding a little bit quieter on Saturday, from the inside barrier.
“I would think that we would ride him a little bit more conservatively,” Carey said.
“He has been beginning quiet well and holding a forward position naturally.
“He will be ridden where he is given a chance to settle.”
Ethiopia is set to head to the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 5, after the Underwood Stakes this weekend, before contesting the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) a fortnight later.
The Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup double has always been the major target for Ethiopia this spring but Carey admitted that he is worried about the weight the 2012 Australian Derby winner will have to carry in the Caulfield Cup after he was allocated 55kg by Racing Victoria Chief Handicapper Greg Carpenter.
“He has a nomination for the Caulfield Cup and that is high on the agenda,” the Mornington-based trainer said.
“It is slightly more than what we thought we would get.
“As it pans out I am slightly concerned about which of the ones above him will turn up on the day because if Fiorente goes to the Cox Plate it might be thin for numbers above him and he might become a top weight.”
Ethiopia is aiming to become the first horse since Elvstroem in 2004 to win the Underwood Stakes/Caulfield Cup double.