Trainer David Vandyke has set his sights on the Group 1 $3m Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 17 with Prince Cheri who returned to the race track after a year on the sidelines at Hawkesbury five weeks ago.
The 2013 Metropolitan favourite was forced to miss over twelve months of racing after undergoing surgery for a back complaint but Vandyke is happy with the way Prince Cheri has pulled up after his comeback run when fourth to Sons Of John in the Group 3 $150,000 Panthers Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) at Hawkesbury June 7.
“Prince Cheri is in very good shape,” Vandyke told Racing Ahead.
“He had quite a time off, a year, and he had a run in the Hawkesbury Cup. He didn’t get far, 2.9 lengths after doing the hard yards up front.”
Prince Cheri suffered from an unusual back problem with two of his vertebrae rubbing against each other and restricting his movement and had to have surgery to rectify it.
But Vandyke said that the French import has shown a new lease of life since he has been back in the stable and is expecting him to be at his best in the Spring.
“He had two vertebrae that were touching, causing him discomfort,’’ Vandyke said.
“It’s called a kissing spine and the horse had to undergo an operation to shave one of the vertebra so it was no longer rubbing against the other one.
“We then gave him a long spell and the difference in the horse has been amazing.
“He is a horse that previously was not a brilliant ‘trialler’ but since he has returned from the operation, he has shown the dash of a sprinter in his trials.’’
Before Vandyke took Prince Cheri to Hawkesbury, the six year old won two Randwick barrier trials and will now head to Melbourne for the Spring Carnival.
Vandyke is aiming to qualify Prince Cheri for the Caulfield Cup by winning the Group 3 $150,000 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on September 19, with the winner being exempt from the ballot for the Melbourne Racing Club’s flagship race.
“We gave him a little freshened up after that. We are going to start his racing campaign in Melbourne,” Vandyke said.
“He will have a run in an Open Handicap over a mile at Moonee Valley. We will then look towards the Naturalism. He will get in well there, he’s a 99 rater and it’s a Group 3, so we won’t be far off the limit.”
“Should he win the Naturalism, we will be exempt for ballot on the Caulfield Cup and we might even sneak a run in the Turnbull in between those two races.”
Prince Cheri has been tested twice at Group 1 level and was sent as the favourite when sixth to Seville in the 2013 $400,000 McGrath Estate Agents Metropolitan (2400m) at Randwick and then in the Autumn of 2014 was sixth to Boban in the $500,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm.