Trainer Wayne Hawkes is confident that Ninth Legion is good enough to breakthrough for his maiden Group level victory in the 2013 Villiers Stakes (1550m) at the Randwick Kensington track tomorrow.
Ninth Legion returned to the races with a fifth place finish in the Listed Lightning Handicap (1100m) at Royal Randwick on October 19 and finished second in the Listed Ladies Day Cup (1400m) at Hawkesbury before recording a narrow win in the Wadalba Handicap (1350m).
The son of Fastnet Rock was well-backed in the lead-up to the Listed Festival Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens a fortnight ago but was blocked badly for a run in the final stages of the race and could finish no better than eleventh.
Hawkes told RSN this morning that jockey Tommy Berry got it wrong on Ninth Legion in the Festival Stakes and believes that the run should be forgotten; rating the four-year-olds previous form good enough to take out the Villiers Stakes this weekend.
“Tommy Berry got lost,” Hawkes said.
“He missed the boat, should have got going a bit sooner and all of a sudden they have come around him.
“He went from being in the gun position to being midfield and getting locked away.
“I think that he is still looking for a way out and the race was two weeks ago.
“You forget about that run and it was an absolute barrier trial.
“His form is pretty damn good for this race and the horse that won last week, Messene, we even thought about backing him up in the Villiers but because we have this bloke we thought that we had one good chance so we will leave it at that.”
Ninth Legion showed a great deal of ability as a younger horse in 2012, finishing fifth in the Group 1 T.J. Smith (1600m) at Eagle Farm and fourth in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m), but Hawkes was unhappy with his form during his autumn campaign earlier this year.
He finished an impressive second in the Bendigo Guineas (1400m) and was runner-up again in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens but Hawkes believed that his mind wasn’t on the job and opted to geld the well-bred colt, which he believes has made a major difference to his racing.
“He wasn’t being fair dinkum,” Hawkes said.
“He ran second in that Bendigo Guineas and he went to Sydney and he just wasn’t 100 percent fair dinkum with life.
“Since he has been gelded he has a different outlook on it.
“It is very hard when you have these well-bred horses and people want to keep them colts.
“It puts blinkers on a lot of owners and they get carried away because we all have well-bred colts and we all have lovely horses and there aren’t many of them that are going to go to stud and be proper horses like Pierro and All Too Hard.”
Hawkes is yet to decide on any further race targets with Ninth Legion but he is confident that the gelding has the ability to win the Villiers Stakes this weekend and be competitive at Group 1 level during the 2014 Autumn Racing Carnival.
“He can if he wants to do it,” Hawkes said when asked if Ninth Legion could win a Group 1 race.
“He has the ability and he is certainly good enough to win a race like this.
“It is a different type of Group race but this bloke is good enough to go through the autumn carnival and do what he wants to do really.”