Burgundy showing good form
Jason Bridgman is counting the days to the first three-year-old classic of the season, the Sothys New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton on November 5.
As the trainer of Burgundy, the hot favourite for the $400,000 feature, Jason could be excused some nervousness but the reality is that he’s keenly anticipating the opportunity for what he and others in his trade love doing best, training big winners.
Burgundy has been making headlines since he was knocked down for $1.3 million to Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis at the Karaka yearling sales in early 2010. He made his long awaited debut at Taupo in mid-September and won easily, then returned to the same track three weeks later for a repeat performance.
Last Sunday was the big test, however, when he stepped up to stakes company at Riccarton in what would be his dress rehearsal for the New Zealand 2000 Guineas. It was more of the same from the handsome colt as he led throughout and left his rivals in his wake.
That performance over the same 1600 metres as the November 5 classic has Burgundy the hot favourite at $1.90 in the TAB’s fixed odds market for the 2000 Guineas. As well as carrying the hopes of punters, he will be out to emulate former Te Akau winners King’s Chapel in 2003, Darci Brahma (2005) and Tell A Tale in 2008.
Being a brother to Darci Brahma is no guarantee of success but Sunday’s win left no doubts that Burgundy is the real deal as he completely dominated his opposition. Some might query whether his frontrunning style is conducive to winning races at the highest level but Jason Bridgman, for one, has no such qualms.
‘‘The way they run races in this part of the world you’re taking a lot of the luck out of the equation if you can set your own terms in front,’’ he reasons. ‘‘By the same token you can’t deny his enthusiasm, he wants to get out and race and he’s growing in confidence every time he goes to the races.’’
Jason isn’t convinced that Burgundy has to lead and along with stable rider Matt Cameron would be just as happy if another runner was prepared to take that role off him.
‘‘He hits the ground running but then relaxes, so that helps him to have something up his sleeve for the serious part of the race. If something else wanted to lead I’m quite confident that Matt wouldn’t have to fight him to take a trail.’’
Connections had considered scratching Burgundy when heavy rain in Canterbury last week softened the Riccarton track but luckily there was good drying and the race morning decision to start was made.
‘‘That ground was on the border line but the race fitted in with his programme,’’ said Jason. ‘‘All we want now is a clean run to Saturday week and fine weather.’’
Burgundy isn’t the only colt set to wear the Te Akau tangerine and blue colours in the Riccarton classic. Fellow seven-figure yearling Rock ’n’ Pop – a son of New Zealand Derby winner Popsy – has shaped up well enough in his three starts to date to warrant a start. Sent south to Te Akau’s Rangiora satellite earlier than his stablemate, he won his debut at Riccarton in midSeptember and has been beaten narrowly by Canterbury’s two best resident three year olds Planet Rock and Shuka in his two starts since.
‘‘He would have won his last start but for getting lost and racing greenly short of the finish,’’ said his trainer. ‘‘ He might be my second string runner but he’s still not a bad one.’’
Jason is enjoying his second season at Te Akau since taking over in August last year from Mark Walker, who now runs the operation’s Singapore stable.
‘‘It was a big step up for me and after a year or so I’m more comfortable in the role, I’ve got more of a handle on it,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a confidence thing and it’s good to see the results we’re getting.’’
Jason scraped into last season’s premiership top 10 with 47 wins and nearing the end of the first three months of the 2011-12 season he’s happy to be sitting third with 16 wins. The current table topper is Matamata’s other trainer with a South Island satellite stable, John Sargent.
After filling the runner-up position in the past two seasons, he’s making a good fist of achieving his ambition to go one better. With 23 wins after Sunday’s racing, he has established a five-win break over early season leader Kevin Myers.
John won races at Ellerslie on Saturday and Riccarton on Sunday, opening his account with the promising but injuryplagued mare Sirani and adding the twoyear-old event at Riccarton with Saatchi.
Sirani, a $270,000 Karaka yearling purchase and by boom northern hemisphere sire Galileo, looked very promising when winning at Ellerslie as a mid-season three year old but suffered an injury soon afterwards and again shortly after returning last autumn. Saturday’s 2400-metre race was only her third this spring but she stamped her credentials for something a lot bigger when Vinnie Colgan brought her from last for a decisive win.
Saatchi, who cost his owners Danica and Gail Guy only $7500 as a weanling, has a perfect record in his career to date. After winning a trial at Te Teko in early August he was sent to the Sargent stable at Riccarton and two runs on his ‘‘home’’ track have produced two wins.
This Friday’s Matamata race meeting will have special meaning as it marks the anniversary of the death last October of popular local stable hand Blair Busby.
Blair died after an accident in the stabling area at Hastings racecourse on Kelt Capital Stakes raceday. At the time he was employed at Te Akau Racing after having earlier worked at Ballymore Stables. During several years in Matamata, Taranaki-born Blair had become a very popular member of the local racing community and his death was keenly felt by many.
On the initiative of Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan, Blair will be remembered with Friday’s race meeting labelled Blair Busby Memorial Raceday. The feature race will be named the Blair Busby Memorial Plate, complete with trophies for the winning connections donated by Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan.
Given Blair’s role as a strapper and stable hand, all races on the programme will carry prizes for the strapper of the winner, while a barbecue will provide food and non-alcoholic drinks for licensed stable hands working on the day.
Honoured: Former Matamata stable hand Blair Busby, who will be remembered at Friday’s Blair Busby Memorial Raceday.