ANZAC aim for Ritchie’s new acquisition

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  • April 26, 2023
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Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie will enter phase two of a special project when imported galloper Mahrajaan tackles Sunday’s Listed Manawatu ITM ANZAC Stakes (1600m) at Awapuni.

Phase one was Ritchie realising an aspiration to buy a tried European horse to train in New Zealand with a goal of contesting rich Cups races in Australia.

Ritchie did that when he secured Mahrajaan in England last year for 65,000 guineas.

“I’d always wanted to do it, to get up there and buy a European stayer that Chris Waller and those guys have been doing for ages with a view to trying to get them ready for the Cups down here,” Ritchie said.

“We managed to get him and he was one of 41 horses on the plane to Australia and he was the one horse that came to New Zealand.

“The idea was to try and get a horse that looked just a bit backward that might enjoy a New Zealand grass paddock.”

Ritchie was in no doubt that Mahrajaan had done just that, reporting the galloper had thrived since arriving in Cambridge.

“He was a big, lean, narrow horse to start with but we’re really happy with the amount of condition he’s put on. He’s certainly enjoyed that New Zealand grass, that’s for sure,” Ritchie said.

“So that just begs the question of whether he’ll need this first run this weekend. We’ve done a lot of work with him on the training track. We haven’t done an English-style preparation with him but those horses can do well on a New Zealand-Australian-style prep.

“We’ve followed the system Chris (Waller) told me he uses of giving them three weeks in the stable then three weeks out and this horse has responded really well. His coat looks fantastic.

“He’s got a wee bit of a puku on him but he’s in magnificent order and he’s put a lot of muscle on since we’ve had him too so so far everything’s looking good for him.

“Whether he’s going to be in need of the run on Sunday, we’ll find out, but he has had a good trial and we made him work a little bit round the corner and up the straight and pulled up slowly so we’ve done as much as we can on the training tracks to make sure he goes well on Sunday.”

Mahrajaan has raced with merit in strong second-tier English staying races, only once missing a top-four placing in 10 starts that produced consecutive wins at Leicester, Ripon and Hamilton.

“He’s won three out of 10 just below Group company up there but at the better tracks. He’d been carrying some big weights, up to 64 kilos, so he’s certainly going to enjoy a bit of weight relief on Sunday,” Ritchie said.

“His best form is over 2400 to 2800m and obviously he’s done here with an aim of having a go at the Cups. If he goes well on Sunday, we might look at taking him to Queensland for a couple of runs to see where we measure up.

“If we could get qualified for something in the spring in Melbourne, that would be lovely.”

TAB bookmakers have Mahrajaan as a $13 chance for the ANZAC Mile but Ritchie was optimistic his charge would run well.

“He’ll get back but they’re racing on the outside bend and that will mean he’ll get the space to come wide and get home,” he said.

“I’m sure he will. He’ll hit the line hard but whether he’s got the speed to measure up this weekend, we’ll find out.”

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