Echuca-based trainer Gwenda Johnstone has confirmed she won’t be heading to Adelaide for the Group 1 The Goodwood next month with her flying sprinter Rocket Tommy even if he wins in Melbourne on Saturday.
The super-consistent Hold That Tiger five-year-old is one of the best in betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the $120,000 Listed Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria Bel Esprit Stakes (1100m), the sole black-type on the VOBIS Day card at Caulfield.
A winner of his past three races on the trot, Rocket Tommy has enjoyed seven wins overall during a thirteen-start career and steps up in class this weekend.
The gelding was last seen coming down the outside alley (15 of 15) down the famous Flemington straight for a 1000m win in Benchmark 90 company, with the Bel Esprit Stakes his first start in Caulfield since the spring.
“He came through that win [at Flemington] in good shape, he’s been working well and eating well since,” Johnstone told Racing Victoria.
His first trip to the track produced a mid-finish seventh behind Lucky Liberty over the 1200m, but Johnstone is hoping for a better result as Rocket Tommy faces his first stakes test.
“We were going to run him two weeks ago at Caulfield but we changed tack to this race because we wanted to put him up against a better grade of horse to see how he’d handle it,” Johnstone said.
Win or lose on Saturday, plans are to send the stable’s star sprinter to the paddock for a spell.
A spring carnival campaign is number one priority, meaning Rocket Tommy won’t be seen in South Australia in the $1 million Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville on May 20.
“He probably won’t go to the Goodwood because the weight scale probably wouldn’t suit him.
“We’ll run him on Saturday and even if he happens to win we’ll just give him a break and bring him back for the early spring.”
Jockey Jarrod Fry retains the ride on the explosive short-distance specialist in the Bel Esprit Stakes on Saturday, with the likely tactic being to go forward from the wide barrier (11 into 10).
“He’ll just use his speed and go forward and then we’ll see what the horses around him do,” Johnstone said.
“If they want to go harder than him they can, but if they don’t he’ll be in front.
“All he can do is win and as Jarrod has been saying, nothing has really taken him on in the last 100m or 200m of his races so it’ll be good to see what he can do when they do.”
The other major players in this season’s Bel Esprit Stakes field are the Lindsay Park-trained Oakleigh Plate runner-up Faatinah and Kaepernick for Team Hawkes drawn in barriers three and four respectively.
Nicconi four-year-old Faatinah is out to improve on his last start tenth to Russian Revolution in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill when found-out on a Heavy (10) track.
He hasn’t won a race since last September’s Group 2 Bobbie Lewis (1200m), but a good run on Saturday will see the stable head to The Goodwood where Faatinah will look to finish closer than his fifth to Black Heart Bart in the feature last autumn as a $41 roughie.