The $1m Stradbroke Handicap is firmly planted in the back of the mind of trainer Peter Snowden as he prepares Mental for the Group 2 $350,000 Sky Racing Queensland Guineas (1400m) at Eagle Farm tomorrow.
Snowden has maintained that the Guineas is Mental’s main Winter Carnival mission but if the short priced favourite is an impressive winner on Saturday he will consider a start in the 1400m Group 1 sprint next week.
“The Guineas is the race he has gone there for,” Snowden said.
“I will look at Saturday first. That’s what he is up there for and if he wins that, well then we’ll see what happens after that.”
The Lonhro three year old will need to win the Guineas and receive a penalty, if the handicapper saw fit, to sneak into the Stradbroke field from his current number twenty-three spot in the order of entry.
The highly promising Mental sealed a Winter Carnival trip with an easy win in a 1200m Benchmark 85 Handicap at the stand alone Hawkesbury Guineas meeting and then cemented his class with a dominant win in the Group 3 $125,000 Ascend Sales Fred Best Classic (1350m) at Doomben on May 19.
The Fred Best Classic win promoted Mental to a clear second favourite for the Stradbroke at $7, behind BTC Cup and Doomben 10,000 winner Sea Siren who heads the market order at $5.
But Snowden wants to get through the Guineas first where his main rival is stable mate Free Wheeling.
“There’s been a lot to like about both of them,” Snowden said.
“He hasn’t met a good field but he’s been winning and winning well.”
“Both horses have done well and have drawn nicely. It looks a nice race for both of them.”
“Mental probably has got a bit more of a turn of foot but both horses are going well.”
Stable rider Kerrin McEvoy has stuck with the $2.20 favourite while Hugh Bowman is back on Free Wheeling ($4.60) after winning the Listed $150,000 Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) at Hawkesbury on May 5 on the three year old.
McEvoy was aboard Free Wheeling when he was held up for a run before finishing fourth to Tiger Tees in the Group 3 $125,000 Darley BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 19 and has elected to stick with Mental after both three year olds drew inside barriers in the eighteen horse field.
“It’s good to see them both draw nicely and both are good quality three year olds but I think Mental just has that sharper turn of foot,” McEvoy said.
“I rode Mental against Free Wheeling the other morning and they both worked nicely at the Sunshine Coast , Mental probably just shaded the other horse, but one thing about them they are both going to enjoy getting to Eagle Farm.”
McEvoy said that Free Wheeling had no luck at Doomben and is going into the Guineas in tip top shape.
“He just needed to get out and get mobile a little earlier,” McEvoy said.
“He got jammed up in between them which can happen at Doomben and I’d say there is no doubt he was an unlucky loser.”
The Peter Morgan trained Amah Rock and John Thompson’s Boys On Tour share the next line of betting at $8 after running second and third behind Mental at Doomben.
With more rain predicted for Saturday, Boys On Tour could be the firmer with a great wet track record of three wins from four starts on a heavy track.