Steve Moran

Steve Moran Speaks To Mick Price

Recent autumns have generally been kind to the Caulfield horseman largely courtesy of the deeds of the now sidelined Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice) along with Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winners Samaready (More Than Ready) and Extreme Choice (Not A Single Doubt).

And this year may be no exception given the talent and scope of his three-year-olds Extreme Choice and Flying Artie (Artie Schiller) who will be aimed at various legs of the autumn’s major sprints – the Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m), Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1, 1100m), Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) and T J Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) – each of which Lankan Rupee won in 2014 and 2015.

The stable will also be hopeful there’s a Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) candidate among the two-year-olds which are about 20 stronger in number than recent seasons and Price has two of the youngsters nominated for Moonee Valley on Saturday – Cao Cao (Fastnet Rock) and Royal Treasury (Sebring).

“There’s no prizes for producing them early but we are about to get rolling with a few,” Price said in reference to the fact that not many of them have graced the racetrack as yet.

“There’s a few nice ones among them but the reality is that the racing experience really tells you what they’ve got. They’ve got to prove they’re good enough under raceday pressure. Lone trailed well last month and was showing a bit but then had a mishap, being kicked. Cao Cao ran well on debut at Flemington and he may run Saturday. Could be a Magic Millions horse for us…maybe,” Price said.

Cao Cao’s debut was a closing second to Aspect (Pluck), with the Debutant Stakes (Listed, 1000m) winner Wait For No One (Lonhro) third, in the Maribyrnong Plate (Gr 3, 1000m) at Flemington on 5 November.

That’s the same race in which Flying Artie debuted last year, similarly – albeit more impressively – closing to finish second. Flying Artie then resumed in February to win the Blue Diamond Prelude (Gr 3, 1100m) before running second to Extreme Choice in the Blue Diamond Stakes.

Price’s Diamond winners Extreme Choice and Samaready both debuted as winners in December while his top youngster of 2014-15, Ready For Victory (More Than Ready) did not first appear until March and then backed up two weeks later to run fourth in the Golden Slipper.

Price, of course, has also had recent Golden Slipper placings with Flying Artie and Samaready (third in 2016 and 2012 respectively) and may be ready to break the ice in the nation’s top juvenile race with numbers on his side and, perhaps, a change of luck which eventually came his way in the Blue Diamond after several frustrating years.

The trainer had the the 2003 edition taken from him when Roedean (Flying Spur) was subsequently disqualified due to returning a positive swab to lignocaine which had been inadvertently applied to the filly when treated with an ointment.

He’s also prepared six Blue Diamond Stakes placegetters which can be happily noted now in the wake of his two wins and other key results underline his success with two-year-olds. They include the trifecta in the 2003 Blue Diamond Preview (Fillies) (Gr 3, 1000m) with Halibery (Red Ransom), Gaelic Princess (King Of Kings) and Roedean plus World Peace (Danehill) and Malasun (Red Ransom) also winning that race for the stable in 2004 and 2012.

His other juveniles stakes winners include Perfectly Ready (More Than Ready) and Doubting (Redoute’s Choice) who won each divisions of the Blue Diamond Prelude in 2005 along with Pergram (General Nediym) and the aforementioned Ready For Victory. Plus he had Jabali (Exceed And Excel) and Cornrow (Duporth) who were Group One placed at two.

As to his major sprint prospects, Price said that plans are ‘as locked in as they can be at this stage’ for Flying Artie and Extreme Choice and that he was hopeful that Lankan Rupee could make a successful return to the track but would bypass the autumn.

“Lankan Rupee’s only had 26 starts, he’s not been over-taxed and this is a different injury to the one that sidelined him previously so I’d have some optimism about him coming back. He’ll need some rehab and some time but should be OK,” Price said.

Lankan Rupee pulled up sore after his fourth to Malaguerra (Magnus) in the Darley Classic (Gr 1, 1200m) on 5 November which was just his second run after 12 months off. “I felt he didn’t really let go that day and I thought something was wrong. That was certainly the case the next morning with a lesion around the near fore suspensory,” he said.

Extreme Choice is expected to proceed to the Oakleigh Plate and then the T J Smith Stakes while Flying Artie is aimed at the Lightning Stakes, Newmarket Handicap, T J Smith and then the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) at Royal Ascot.

“Extreme Choice may not be a straight horse. That’s one conclusion you could draw from the Coolmore. He was not at his best that day for whatever reason,’ Price said of the colt’s two and a quarter lengths fifth behind Flying Artie.

“So you would logically look to a race like the Oakleigh Plate, around the bend on his home track where he’s unbeaten but it is a handicap and it might depend on what weight he gets.

“Similarly the straight races are logical for Flying Artie whose two previous runs down the straight course have been so good. He shone in the Coolmore and he came through the race very well. All being well, Royal Ascot is certainly on the agenda but naturally there’ll be further discussions with the shareholders,” Price said.

Both colts are destined for stud duties. Flying Artie is now raced by a syndicate that includes Newgate Farm, China Horse Club, SF Bloodstock, Matthew Sandblom and his initial owners Luskin Park and Aston Bloodstock.

And the Henry Field managed Newgate Farm also purchased a majority interest in Extreme Choice, in conjunction with Aquis Farm, the China Horse Club, Matthew Sandblom and family, and SF Bloodstock.  

The Picnics – Healesville Last Saturday

Former top thoroughbred and harness racing journalist Richard Trembath was bemused by his visit to the Healesville picnic meeting last Saturday and his flair for the written word and ‘feel’ for the game was ably demonstrated as his email to me, about the day, began as follows:

“The punt was disappointing but not half as disappointing, I suspect, as what must have been experienced at some stage by the breeders/owners of the third placegetter in race one, Eclair Raider – by High Chaparral from Dane Ripper….

“The breeding record surrounding the winner was much more successful. It was owned and trained by Keith Rawiller, driver of the runner-up in an Inter Dominion final and sire of Brad and Nash. I nearly backed his winner, Bar Date, on Saturday for no other reason than sentiment but resisted the temptation. Of course it was never going to get beaten,” he wrote.

Rawiller senior drove El Cordobies into second place behind Bay Johnny in the Trotters’ Inter Dominion final in Adelaide in 1976. He also rode a horse called Solum to win the Cup Day hurdle at Flemington and may well be the only horseman to have ridden winners on the flat and over the jumps and driven pacers and trotters to victory.