River Lad Vying for Stradbroke Start

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In-form gelding River Lad can press his claims for a start in Queensland’s most prestigious race when he lines up in the Listed Prime Minister’s Cup (1300m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday.

River Lad is being aimed at the Stradbroke Handicap. Photo by: Daniel Costello.

The five-year-old has been entered alongside 139 other horses for next month’s $1.36 million Stradbroke Handicap, a race trainer Natalie McCall believes he would be ideally suited to.

“The owners would definitely like to run in it and he’d obviously get in at a light weight,” McCall said.

“The 1400m at Eagle Farm probably suits him better than anywhere so if he can perform in his next couple of runs that’s definitely something to aim for.”

The son of Top Echelon heads into the Prime Minister’s Cup in career-best form, having put together back-to-back wins in March before returning to run third in the Hinkler Handicap at Eagle Farm on April 20.

McCall is expecting an improved performance this weekend, suggesting her stable star “needed the run” in the Hinkler after a brief freshen-up following  March’s success.

“He had a week in the paddock after his two wins in March so he definitely needed the run at Eagle Farm last time,” McCall said.

“It’s an open race and you could probably have 10 picks and still miss but I think he’s one of the top chances.”

The Sunshine Coast trainer said River Lad can be a difficult horse to deal with and attributes his recent consistency to successful management of a back problem.

“He’s always been a bit immature mentally but he’s also had some back problems that we’ve been able to work out. He’s spent a lot of time on the treadmill,” she said.

“He’s become a bit more mature the more he’s raced but getting the back problems sorted is probably why he is so consistent this time in.”

The winner of 10 of 28 starts is a $13 chance in the Prime Minister’s Cup market, with Sydney sprinter Hot Snitzel a $4.50 favourite in a strong 16-horse field.

River Lad will head to the Group 3 BRC sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 18 following Saturday’s hit-out.

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