Hall of Fame trainer Chris Waller hasn’t lost any confidence in Funstar on the eve of what could be a make-or-break for her in the Group 2 $200,000 Theo Marks Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Glamour mare Funstar is considered one of Waller’s spring carnival mainstays but a repeat of the mare’s indifferent first-up effort would leave the trainer’s big-race ambitions in some doubt.
Funstar couldn’t really get into the contest when resuming at Randwick last month finishing sixth behind Roheryn in the Show County Quality but her trainer painted an encouraging picture of the mare’s progress going into Saturday’s race.
“We lay our cards on the table and if there is a problem we let you know but Funstar is working very well and has not given me any sign or indication she hasn’t come back,’’ Waller said.
“Her first-up run looked ‘plain’ but I don’t think she is a 1200m horse and giving away a good start to decent sprinters made it hard. I thought through the line she was actually quite good
“I feel she can run very well on Saturday and although it is only another 100m, a top four finish would suggest she is spot on to peak for the Epsom Handicap over the mile.’’
Waller is banking on Funstar bouncing back from her first-up loss as her stablemate Kolding did last week when he was came off a struggling effort in the Winx Stakes when resuming to just miss running down Dreamforce in the Tramway Stakes.
“Like Kolding, her work has been fantastic,’’ Waller said of Funstar.
TAB Fixed Odds price assessors are certainly taking no chances with Funstar who has been installed the $3.20 favourite to give Waller a record-equalling fifth Theo Marks Stakes after previous successes with Arcadia Queen (2019), Mackintosh (2016), Winx (2015) and Riva De Lago (2013).
Waller used the Theo Marks Stakes to launch Winx’s successful Epsom Handicap-Cox Plate campaign five years ago and this is a race trail Funstar could follow this spring.
However, Waller conceded he hasn’t determined the four-year-old mare’s preferred race distance although he suspects the mare might be best suited at around 1600m.
“I haven’t yet worked out the right distance for Funstar but I’m thinking a mile,’’ he said. “That’s the reason we’ve targeted the Epsom with her.’’
Waller is also chasing another training record in the Group 2 $200,000 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) if either of his entries, Haut Brion Her, Fiesta or Subpoenaed, can win the feature fillies and mares race.
The champion trainer has already prepared three Sheraco winners with Invincibella (2018) and Catkins (2014-15) and shares the race training record with Gai Waterhouse.
Haut Brion Her is the favoured runner of the Waller trio in early Sheraco betting at $7.50 with Subpoenaed $19 and Fiesta $51. Fasika is the $2.50 favourite.
Jockey James McDonald has been talking up Haut Brion Her this week and the mare does boast an impressive race record of eight starts for five wins and three seconds although she hasn’t appeared on raceday since taking out the Group 2 Blazer Stakes at Flemington 11 months ago.
“Haut Brion Her’s trials have been good but she hasn’t raced for almost a year which is the only negative,’’ Waller said.
“But she has a bright future.
“Subpoenaed was very much like Funstar first-up, she looked plain but I think her run was pretty good really and she should run well.
“Fiesta has drawn wide and I think we will go back from that barrier, we will ride her conservatively and she will run on well in what looks a very competitive race.’’
The barrier draw wasn’t kind to Waller at Flemington on Saturday either with Kings Will Dream ($9.50) having to start from gate 15 in the Group 1 $750,000 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
Boom stayer Russian Camelot is at the top of betting at $3.60.
Kings Will Dream ran a blinder first-up when third to Savatiano in the Group 2 Lawrence Stakes but Waller fears the chestnut could have to endure a tough run from the wide barrier in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
“The draw is a concern but fortunately it is at Flemington,’’ Waller said.
“We just have to hope we get a bit of luck in the run and he finds something to take him into the race because the horse is going very well.’’
All-purpose site still on cards
Racing NSW is continuing its search for a suitable site to develop an all-purpose training centre.
“We are still looking for at least 1000 acres in the right location to build the training centre,’’ Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.
The planning for a state-of-the-art training centre is part of Racing NSW’s long-term strategy to improve the state’s thoroughbred training facilities.
“One of the things I’ve done wrong and a lot of sporting administrators have done wrong is to look three to five years out but at Racing NSW we are now looking ahead 20 years and beyond,’’ V’landys explained.
“What is well known is that it is very expensive for our participants to live in the metropolitan area so we need to have better training facilities and complexes out of the metropolitan area which gives participants a chance to have a better quality of life.
“We have already purchased over $100 million worth of property which is an investment for the future. Racing NSW wants to sure the industry is not around for the next five years, but the next 20 years and beyond.’’
Among Racing NSW’s recent investments is the purchase of Cessnock racecourse which will be developed into a pre-training facility and also significant parcels of land around Scone racecourse.
“What is not widely understood is that there are a lot of horses congesting our stables on track that are being pre-trained or broken in,’’ V’landys said.
“We want to get them out of there and that’s the idea of Cessnock, to have a world-class pre-training facility which will take those horses out of the metropolitan and provincial stables.
“This means a trainer can have more horses in his stables that can be ready to race and that should help to improve field sizes. At Scone, we have bought over 500 acres up there with a master plan established which is going to turn that facility into a world-class (racing and training) complex.’’
Lord joins race for Kosciuszko
Lord Von Costa is the latest to be selected for a start in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko, leaving only two places left to be filled in the race for bush-trained horses. He joins Handle The Truth, It’s Me, Ice In Vancouver, Two Big Fari, Ligulate, Anethole, Front Page, Fender, Man Of Peace and Intuition in The Kosciuszko that is run on Everest Day at Royal Randwick on October 17.
Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker is a part-owner of Intuition and has announced the sprinter’s jockey will be wearing specially designed Raiders silks in The Kosciuszko and that a percentage of prizemoney money won by gelding will be donated to the Ricky Stuart Foundation which supports the after-care of autistic people and their families.