Viking Legend will be one of the most anticipated runners at Rosehill Gardens with his Saturday with his performance in the Listed Winter Stakes crucial to his spring ambitions.
The horse is touted as a potential runner in some of the big events in Sydney and Melbourne later in the year but he needs to find plenty after a slow start to the prep.
As a three year old things looked bright when under the guidance of Gai Waterhouse he placed at Group 1 level on three occasions including the Spring Champion Stakes, Victoria Derby and Randwick Guineas.
Unfortunately after the Randwick Guineas run they discovered a tendon injury resulting in a spell of over 450 days.
In that period he was also transferred to new trainers Ross Simpson and Tracey Barnes.
He resumed on a heavy Randwick track just over a month ago and he ran fifth only a length away from the winner Title.
It gave connections plenty of confidence but a trip to the Glasshouse Handicap on the Sunshine Coast didn’t pay off as he languished in 10th spot.
“The run in Queensland was probably a bit my fault,” Simpson said.
“I told (jockey) Chris (O’Brien) that I expected him to go forward but the race didn’t pan out, they nearly broke the race record on a slow track.”
The Winter Stakes distance of 1500m will be an interesting one for a few runners and Viking Legend isn’t excluded.
His best form to date has been over a mile but Simpson says he could well surprise a few people.
“I wouldn’t write him off on Saturday, he’s still in with a big chance,” Simpson said.
“But he’ll be a lot better once he gets to 1800 or 2000 metres.”
It’s a distance range he’ll be quickly into as well with the Premier’s Cup Prelude over 1800m at Rosehill on August 13th the likely next step.
That would naturally lead into a start in the Listed Premier’s Cup over the same trek with his performance there determining what may await later in the spring.
“Some of his owners, their main aim is the Caulfield Cup but whether he gets 2400 metres or not, I’m not sure,” Simpson said.
“He got it as a three-year-old but that was against other three-year-olds.
“We might run him in the Metropolitan here before Melbourne and that will tell me whether he stays.
“It’s an open book at the moment.”
Viking Legend will be ridden by jockey Jeff Penza in the Winter Stakes which is turning into an intriguing contest with a final field of 12.
He has drawn gate 10 but is hoping the early speed of the race nullifies the bad draw.
Top weight and former Group 1 champion Sniper’s Bullet is inside him in nine and Simpson is hoping that may play t his advantage.
“The wide gate doesn’t worry me,” Simpson said.
“Tracey Bartley’s horse has drawn inside us and he should go forward so if we can go with him it will give us a cart across.
“But the instructions will be to ride him where he’s comfortable.”