On paper, Ocean Go has everything going for him heading into the Krambach Cup (1600m) on Friday at Taree.
The Ocean Park five-year-old has been racing very well in town for Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan, who is trying to find another win for her horse after only just coming up short of late.
Ocean Go has only been a few lengths off in-form horses like Criaderas and Discharged which puts him in good stead for a country race.
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But Friday’s fourth event is the best race on the card.
“I’m looking forward to pulling him back a notch although it’s a good race. We’re not in town though,” Buchanan said.
“I’m hoping he can win but there’s some nice older horses in the race. I was looking through them and there’s some good ones there.”
So how does a horse that’s run in behind Group standard runners in the city perform against seasoned bush runners?
“It’s really hard to judge. It’s all about how races are run and how they suit your horse,” Buchanan said.
“I remember Two Blue who used to get beat in the bush and it sounds bizarre but she found it harder to win races in the country than in town.
“There’s really good form around him. The last couple of races have been strong and he had to carry quite a bit of weight (59.5kg) last time in a good race.
“I’m loving that a couple of other horses nominated so we’re on 55kg. We’re dropping in weight and going to a bush race.”
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While Ocean Go’s form is not in question, it’s his first time racing at Taree and it’s a tighter track than he normally races on.
“He’s run so well in town so this is a nice race for him. My only concern is the track and if he handles that bend which could be a bit awkward for him,” Buchanan said.
“He’s a horse that I do try to keep on a bigger track so that’s my only worry but ability-wise he’s definitely right in the mix.”
Stacey Metcalfe will ride Ocean Go from barrier seven in the eight-horse field and she’s been on him before which is important because she’ll know when to put him into the race.
“He can race on the pace but he’s raced off it too in New Zealand. I sound like a broken record but I just want him to be where he’s comfortable,” Buchanan said.
“He can just jump out and find his position. It’s Taree and they could go like the clappers.
“He is a momentum horse who needs to roll through his gears from the 600m which he hasn’t had the opportunity to do in town at his past two starts where he’s been cluttered in.
“If he can build into the race and stay out of trouble he’ll build into it.”
And a win today will confirm that Ocean Go is ready to run in a rich race series early next year.
“He’s a horse that I have tagged as my potential Provincial Championships horse next year and if he wins at Taree I’ll put him away for it,” Buchanan said.
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Wellington trainer Michael Mulholland has a progressive horse in Athena’s Lad going around in the sixth race at Bathurst but it’s an experience stablemate that can upstaged him.
Universal Thief takes Athena’s Lad on in a Class 3 Handicap (1200m) and he’s first-up off an 18-week spell and Mulholland knows it’s short of his best trip but has kept him fresh to sprint well.
He just needs to behave himself going to the gates but jockey Kath Bell-Pitomac has ridden him before and knows what to expect.
“He went well fresh first-up last time in,” he said.
“He’s spelled well and he’ll look good in the yard when he walks around.
“He’s had no jump outs. He’s an older horse and doesn’t need them. He might be a bit fresh going onto the track. He’s bucked a jockey before but Kath knows him well and knows what he does.
“He throws his head real low when he first goes out and he’ll run a good race.”
From barrier two he should get smothered up and with luck and sprint through his rivals.
“He’ll travel a bit closer and he’ll finish off strongly and I eventually want to get him up to that mile mark and keep him there and he might win a few more,” Mulholland said.
Athena’s Lad has won two from five to kick off his career but is looking for more ground very soon.
“He’ll be hitting the line hard. He’ll struggle to keep up with them early,” Mulholland said.
“Normally I’d start him over 1400m first-up and even that would be a bit too short for him. He’s a 1600m and 1800m horse.
“He’s ran third fresh and won but that was over more ground and he came from well back.”
Demonize races for the Mulholland stable a race earlier and he is second-up off an eighth placing over 1000m when he wasn’t far off the winner.
“He’ll go all right,” Mulholland said.
“He had a big weight last start and if you look at the card that day anything with a big weight didn’t do anything right the way through.
“It’s his right distance and I’m hoping he’ll improve a couple of lengths.”