David Vandyke’s French import Prince Cheri is gearing up to make his return to the track in Sunday’s Hawkesbury Gold Cup with the bookies taking no chances on the galloper who hasn’t raced in over a year.
A six-year-old Lando stallion, Prince Cheri is narrow $4 favourite in a wide open market at Ladbrokes for the rescheduled $150,000 Group 3 Panthers Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m), the handicap clash a washout earlier in the season.
Eleven milers remain in the mix for the Sunday feature following the scratching of the Joe Pride-trained Keep Cool and Gai Waterhouse’s Role Model who were drawn in barriers six and four respectively.
Drawn wide in gate 10, now into eight, and carrying the second heaviest weight of 58.5kg is Vandyke’s returning Prince Cheri who comes off back-to-back trial wins.
Both the winning jumpouts were from last month over 1200m on a rain-affected Randwick track and have brought the galloper on for his first run since last year’s Listed Scone Cup (1600m) in May 2014.
Prince Cheri, last seen in the winner’s stall that September when beating home Honorius in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill, ran fourth to Cameo in the Scone Cup before a back injury put him on the sidelines.
He’s back to full fitness again now having had surgery for the unusual condition dubbed “kissing spine” though and is set for a big run in the Hawkesbury classic.
“He had two vertebrae that was touching, causing him discomfort,” Vandyke told The Sunday Telegraph this week.
“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.”
Dominating the field numbers-wise with four runners is the season’s number one trainer Chris Waller.
Waller celebrated his incredible 14th Group 1 win for the season at Doomben in Brisbane on Saturday with young Press Statement retaining his undefeated status with success in the JJ Atkins (1600m) on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
Now he’ll look to keep the good times coming at a provincial track saddling-up a quartet from his Sydney stables with the best two fancied runners being Tales Of Grimm and Rugged Cross.
Kerrin McEvoy rides six-year-old Tales Of Grimm, the American-bred import having won this year’s Scone Cup last time out with a nose win over Frespanol.
Frespanol failed to frank the Scone Cup form however on Saturday when running a disappointing seventh to Waller’s Strawberry Boy in Brisbane’s $100,000 Listed The Wayne Wilson Mile (1600m).
As for the in-form Rugged Cross, the Cape Cross gelding comes off three top three runs going back to a Randwick win over 1400m during The Championships.
His latest start was a third over the same distance at Rosehill only last Saturday, Sunday his fourth look at the mile.
Waller’s Hawkesbury Gold Cup chances are rounded out by Amovatio who gets the rails run in barrier one and comes off back-to-back fifth place finishes, and Beyond Thankful.
Glyn Schofield is booked to partner the always-honest Whipper five-year-old Beyond Thankful who is second-up on Sunday following a win in the mud at Randwick on May 23 over 1400m.
Other notable Hawkesbury Gold Cup contenders in 2015 include Waterhouse’s 59kg top weight Bonfire who is first-up and Sons Of John on the 54kg minimum coming off an 1800m Randwick win from May 20 with 57kg on his back.