Queensland Derby winner Sonntag will return to racing in the 2015 Orr Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday and trainer Henry Dwyer is expecting very little from the gelding in the Group 1 event.
Sonntag has not been seen at the races since he finished eighth behind Zabisco in the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on November 15 and has been brought up slowly for his autumn campaign that will be centered around a tilt at the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m).
Dwyer told Racing Ahead, whose host Shane Anderson is one of the owners of Sonntag, that he was happy with the condition of the Teofilo gelding ahead of the Orr Stakes, but he does not believe the four-year-old will be competitive in the 1400 metre event and is happy for the Group 1 winner to tack on to the tail of the field and chase the rest of the field home.
“He is really terrific,” Dwyer said.
“It is probably not his race on Saturday and realistically he is not a weight-for-age horse.
“He will go back from a wide barrier and just follow them around and if we could run past a couple late that would be a good result.
“I think that the mile race (the Carylon Cup) has a few race fit horses in there and they will probably go at a stronger tempo.
“Sonntag hasn’t had a trial, he has only had a couple of gallops on the course proper and he is probably not ready for a really strongly run mile, whereas the Orr is mainly stayers resuming and there is no 1200 metre horse stepping up that will put the tempo on.
“I just think that they will go along at the 1400 in almost like a track gallop and that will suit him.”
Chad Schofield steered Sonntag to victory in the Queensland Derby and has become the regular jockey for the gelding, but the leading hoop has elected to partner Lee Freedman-trained Java in the 2015 Orr Stakes this weekend.
Jack Hill has been entrusted with the ride on Sonntag and Dwyer said that he was thrilled to give the hard-working hoop his first opportunity at Group 1 level since he rode Richie’s Vibe in the Oakleigh Plate last year.
“Jack has been terrific for me over the last 18 months since I started out,” Dwyer said.
“I grew up working for Robert Smerdon and Jack was always there as an apprentice for Robert, so I knew him through that originally and he probably has the best ethic of any jockey.
“I think that he has had the most rides for any jockey this season and on top of that he probably rides work five mornings a week at Caulfield and goes to Ballarat.
“When you have one or two good ones every jockey is happy to come out and gallop them, but obviously the slow ones in the team also need galloping and Jack is more than happy to do whatever I need him to.
“I am happy to reward him for that by giving him a ride in a Group 1.”
Sonntag is set to step-up to 1800 metres for the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28 before he heads to Sydney for the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 14, the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 28 and the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.