2013 Queensland Oaks winner Gondokoro will start what trainer Pat Carey hopes will be a lengthy 2014 Autumn Racing Carnival campaign in the Listed John Dillion Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Gondokoro was given a lengthy stint in the spelling paddock following her fifth place finish behind Hawkspur in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm on June 8 and Carey told Racing Ahead this morning that he has been happy with the physical development of the Zabeel mare in her time away from the stable.
“She is coming along quiet nice and I am quite happy with her progress,” Carey said.
“She is a little bit bigger and stronger and she was given a bit of time after the Queensland campaign to grow out and mature.
“She has certainly done that.”
Gondokoro was included in the nominations for the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m), which will be run at Flemington on March 8, but Carey said that the four-year-old was no certainty to contest the $1 million race.
Carey admits that Gondokoro needs to show that she has the ability to be competitive against older horses before she is given an opportunity at weight-for-age level and the veteran trainer said that he will be very flexible with the preparation of the talented mare.
“There are plenty of options for her as she gets out over ground,” Carey said.
“She was nominated for the Australian Cup, but it could be something like the BMW or one of those other Sydney races.
“We will just keep monitoring her as we go, but she is certainly open to improve as a four-year-old staying mare.
“It is a bit early to sort of determine that and to determine a weight-for-age path for a horse that has come off a three-year-old campaign is risky.
“Whilst we are heading towards an Australian Cup, we will be very open-minded about the preparation.”
Gondokoro has failed to beat home a single runner in her three first-up starts to date, finishing last in the 2012 Jim Conway Handicap (1200m) at Sandown, the Metro Solar Handicap (1400m) at Caulfield and the Group 2 Armanasco Stakes (1400m) at the same venue, and Carey is confident that she will improve after running in the John Dillion Stakes.
“It is her first run of what we hope will be a long campaign,” Carey said.
“There is plenty of room for improvement.”