Sonja Kumpikas will saddle her first runner in 17 years when Haunted runs in her partner Jack Pakis’ colours on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Pakis has invested a significant amount of money in recent years buying tried Godolphin horses.
He suggests Astoria is the best to date, having run second in the 2019 Eye Liner, while Peacock won a Rockhampton Newmarket.
Haunted was a $160,000 buy for Pakis after he ran second in last July’s Grafton Ramornie. He also tried to buy Wren’s Day at the same sale, but missed out to Australian Bloodstock.
“I’ve had a fair bit of fun with them,” Pakis said of his Godolphin purchases.
“This one I have gone halves with my friends Elizabeth and Robert Parrey.”
Pakis won a Doomben race recently with Agassi for his previous trainer Diane Murphy, but has now switched his team to Kumpikas.
“I enjoyed my five years with Diane Murphy, but I had always promised Sonja if she ever came back, I would give her my horses to train,” Pakis said.
“She used to be my foreman and trained with a lot of success when she last trained.
“I’m looking forward very much now to see what Sonja can do. She seems to be able to get them right on the day.”
Pakis, who used to train himself in the late 1990s, lives at Hope Island.
Kumpikas was prompted to return to the fold when the couple’s daughter Heiki, showed interest in becoming a trainer.
“We’re hoping Sonja can eventually pass the mantle onto Heiki,” Pakis said.
Haunted brings strong credentials to Saturday’s race, although Pakis is cautious of his chances first up.
“We put him out for about six or seven weeks after we bought him and he’s been a tricky horse to get right, so it’s taken quite a while to prepare him,” Pakis said.
“It’s very exciting, but 900m is probably a touch short for him,” he said. “Sonja hasn’t put him under a lot of pressure and she’s nursed him there.
“The start after that, the real Haunted will come out over 1200m.”
Astoria is back in work after having a throat operation at the conclusion of his winter campaign and Peacock is being brought along slowly after a knee operation.
High praise for Hipstar
Larry Cassidy rarely puts a horse’s name up in lights these days, so his glowing assessment of unbeaten filly Miss Hipstar suggests she might be a little above the average.
Asked if Miss Hipstar was a genuine chance in Saturday week’s $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic, Cassidy didn’t hesitate.
“Yes. Most definitely,” he said, before noting it’s not often he is so public in his confidence. “The last one I rapt (Winx) turned out all right.”
Miss Hipstar and Cassidy aim for three on the trot when they run in Saturday’s Aquis Gold Pearl (1100m) at the Gold Coast, in a race that will reveal much about her Magic Millions aspirations.
Trainer Kelly Schweida has spoken about the confidence he’s taken from the feedback Cassidy has provided and the multiple premiership-winning jockey didn’t shy away from his admiration when asked.
“The first time I rode her she didn’t know much, she got back, I didn’t do much on her and she hit the line. The next jumpout she really switched on,” he said.
“Then she came out and won from a wide gate at Doomben and she’s just kept improving. Ipswich was a soft win. It was sort of like a barrier trial, just to get a little bit more money under her belt.
“She’s a very big filly, but very light on her feet. The thing that impresses me is how laid back she is. She’s so relaxed. Nothing seems to bother her.”
Miss Hipstar will jump from the outside, a fact Cassidy suggests isn’t a huge concern, but he would love a soft draw a week later.
“It’s an awkward draw, but she’s got speed. If I press the button on her early, she will jump and clear them,” he said.
“But I will love when she gets into a race with mad speed, she gets a good draw and she can just park behind them. I think she’s going to be better when she’s coming at them (rather than) leading.”
Cassidy’s best Magic Millions result was second on Not A Single Doubt in 2004 to Dance Hero.
He also rode Bint Marscay before her first start in 1993 and said she felt like a Golden Slipper horse.
“I had only just arrived in Sydney, I didn’t ride her in a race, but I rode her in a gallop,” he said.
“Ron Dufficy was my manager and said ‘how did it go?’ I said ‘I’ve never ridden in a Golden Slipper but if there’s ever a Golden Slipper winner, this is it.’
“Not A Single Doubt was a very nice two-year-old and just ran into a champion two-year-old.
“I won his first three race on him and hopefully (this year) I can go one better than Not A Single Doubt.”