After a first-up win in Sunday’s Sale Cup the Henry Dwyer-trained Sonntag will be kept to a light summer preparation with the long term goal being to have him fit and ready for the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick next year.
Last season the Teofilo gelding capped off a great autumn / winter campaign with a trip to Brisbane where the sunshine agreed with him and he won the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) in a courageous effort after a wide run off a slow pace.
Spelled after his Group 1 triumph the now four-year-old returned to race at Sale over the weekend and scored a half-length win over Lightenuff ($26) with Michael Rodd aboard in the $150,000 Listed Sale Cup (1600m).
Rodd was replacing last year’s Cox Plate winning hoop Chad Schofield in the saddle, Schofield injured in a race fall at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
“I got the ride because Chad’s not here and I hope he’s OK,” Rodd told TVN after the win.
“I saw him yesterday after his tumble and he’s an amazing young man.
“He landed on his head pretty much yesterday and he’s broken his neck before. That would have brought back memories and for him to stick on and ride at the Cox Plate at 49.5kg (on subsequent eighth placegetter Sweynesse) is a massive job.
“I’m sure he’s probably hurting a little bit more now that this horse (Sonntag) has won but he’s got bigger wins in store so he doesn’t have to worry about that.”
It was a barnstorming finish in the Sale Cup too with Sonntag ($6) coming from well back in the field to produce a blistering late run for the win, Rodd quick to credit both horse and trainer post-victory.
“Henry’s done a fantastic job to get him ready here first up,” he added.
“If he was in a bigger stable he would have started shorter but Henry’s a great young trainer.”
Red Inca ($17) rounded out the trifecta while the clear $2.50 favourite in betting, Sysmo, was far from disgraced when running a length off the winner in fifth.
Back earlier in the year after his Queensland Derby success his Caulfield-based trainer Dwyer indicated that the $500,000 Group 2 Perth Cup (2400m) on New Year’s Day during the Perth Summer Racing Carnival at Ascot Racecourse in WA could be on the agenda for the up-and-coming stayer.
Now Dwyer has added a bigger even more prestigious target has been set with Sonntag tracking towards the $1 million Sydney Cup over the two miles in April during the coveted Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“Obviously the expectation’s there when you’ve won a Group One,” he said.
“The idea was to give him a good six weeks up in Queensland and go to the Sale Cup first-up, the Eclipse Stakes and then back in the paddock.
“Everything’s going to plan at the moment.”
The Sale Cup winner then will have his second and last spring appearance in the $150,000 Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) at Sandown Racecourse on Zipping Classic Day, November 15 having come through his returning run in good order.
“It was a good win. He tries hard, can stay and he’s clean winded,” Dwyer reported on Monday morning.
“It was always the plan to give him a light spring with next year’s Sydney Cup as his focus.
“We want to get him there in the best possible condition.”
The galloper’s Sydney Cup appearance will then give Dwyer a good indication of whether Sonntag would make a Spring Cups horse next season with the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) the obvious dream assignment.
This year’s Melbourne Cup field meanwhile is taking shape ahead of the ‘race that stops the nation’ on Tuesday week, last year’s Caulfield Cup champ Fawkner running an ideal lead-up when second to Irish raider Adelaide in the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) on Saturday.