Bendigo trainer Danny Curran is weighing up New Year’s long weekend racing plans for his promising filly The Big Dance who could target the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington Racecourse during the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.
The three-year-old daughter of Oamaru Force is a dual acceptor across Friday and Saturday with Curran paying final fees for Friday’s $80,000 Nouvelle Star Handicap (1200m) at Flemington and the $150,000 Alliance Broking Services VOBIS Gold Carat (1200m) on Saturday at Moonee Valley.
Both sprints look ideal for the lightly-raced The Big Dance who has had two starts to date, Curran leaving it until the eleventh hour to make the call of which race to run her in.
“I’m not sure whether to run at Flemington on New Year’s Day or Moonee Valley on Saturday as both races look ideal,” he told Racing Victoria on Thursday morning.
For Flemington Race 4 on Standish Handicap Day The Big Dance is allocated the 60kg top weight and is drawn in barrier nine of 12, while the Moonee Valley event the following day will see her start from gate six of 13 with 56kg on her back under set weights plus penalties.
“The Moonee Valley race is worth $150,000 and she will only carry 56kg but it has a field with plenty of fillies with decent reputations,” Curran said.
“She will have to carry 60kg at Flemington and I was hoping to book Harry Coffey for that to claim 1.5kg but Darren Weir pulled rank (booking the apprentice to ride Maddie Moo Moo).
“Regardless of where she runs it will be Dean Yendall who will ride her and he knows her well.”
Yendall has been aboard for both of the filly’s two career openers including her debut that produced a two and a quarter length win over 1000m at Bendigo back in March’s lucrative VOBIS Gold Rush.
“We all got a great thrill out of that and set our sights on spring but things didn’t go to plan,” Curran said of her big win first-up.
Things went amiss in her sole Spring Carnival appearance however, The Big Dance running a well-beaten fourth behind subsequent Group 3 Quezette Stakes (1100m) winner Petits Filous over 1000m at the Valley in early August.
“She was never herself that day and nothing went right,” Curran explained.
“Then after she crossed the line when she ran through the running rail and dumped her jockey Dean Yendall.
“She had no real physical issues from that incident other than mild back soreness which she recovered from pretty quickly.
“The major concern was it was more of a mental issue, the vet said that she was fine to continue a preparation so I worked her again but she was mentally fragile, just a very unhappy horse.
“I gave her a spell and she has really blossomed from it.”
Curran is pleased with her progress since and is confident that whichever option he takes this weekend, the $750 bargain buy from the 2014 Inglis VOBIS Gold Yearling Sale can continue the fairy tale adding to her already impressive $176,000 in career earnings.
Her return is later than Curran originally planned with a minor injury halting her progress in the paddock, but she is now spot-on with an eye on some tough spring assignments after a couple of solid hit-outs.
“She cut the frog of her hoof when working the day after Bendigo Cup day,” Curran said.
“It was a minor setback but it is all systems go now.
“She has had two jump outs and a serious gallop.
“I was disappointed with her first jump out over 800m as she finished second and the time was outside of what she can do.
“She raced the horse that beat her again in the next jump out and won it easily and ran time, it showed that she was back to her best.
“Harry Coffey rode her in a recent track gallop where she had to chase down a companion and she was quite outstanding in that so I am confident of a big run regardless of whatever race she contests.”
After this weekend The Big Dance will run again at Flemington on January 16 in the $250,000 Inglis Dash (1100m) before a possible autumn campaign targeting the major sprints including the Newmarket Handicap on March 12.
“If she can prove that she can run the sectionals in a race that she does for me in training then I am willing to aim for the stars,” Curran said.
“That would mean a crack at the Newmarket Handicap and possibly the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, although I would skip the Oakleigh Plate.”
The $400,000 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) runs before Super Saturday’s Newmarket as part of Caulfield’s Blue Diamond Stakes Day action on February 27, while the $500,000 Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m) takes place at Flemington on February 20, 2016.
“She easily defeated Keen Array at her debut and he came out and won the Blue Sapphire in the spring and was runner up in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes,” Curran added.
“I also think that she is up to Petits Filous and we saw what she did during the spring as well.
“If The Big Dance can prove that she is back then I will aim for the top.”