Australia calling Te Rapa Group One contenders

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  • February 10, 2023
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Plans have been made for Asterix and Dragon Leap to cross the Tasman this year, but first the stablemates face ultra-competitive line-ups in their respective Group One engagements at Te Rapa.

Trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott have been more than satisfied with the duo’s most recent performances and both have trained on well ahead of Saturday’s challenges.

Asterix will head into unchartered weight-for-age territory in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) with Craig Zackey booked for the ride, while Dragon Leap steps out in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) in the hands of Warren Kennedy.

Foot issues hampered Asterix in the wake of the son of Tavistock’s Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) triumph.

He was unplaced before Christmas in his first outing since his Classic win and then trounced his Rating 87 rivals over 1600m at Tauranga last month.

“It was pretty mediocre company, but he did it pretty easily and he’s going to have to step up on Saturday,” O’Sullivan said.

“He’s getting up to a distance that he is going to be comfortable at and at weight-for-age there’s a question mark, but we are really pleased with him.

“The plan is to go to Australia to Sydney in the autumn, that’s where we would like to end up with him. He’s got to show good form here to warrant travelling, of course.”

Should the trip eventuate, a possible race on Asterix’s program is the Gr.2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Randwick on April 1, a race the stable won with Charles Road in 2018.

“There’s a few options and one is the Chairman’s, he could go there and whether he runs in the Sydney Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) we’re just not sure at this stage,” O’Sullivan said.

“We want to see how he measures up in weight-for-age company at Te Rapa and that will have a bearing where we head as well.”

Dragon Leap was an impressive first-up winner at Pukekohe and then hit the line strongly for fourth in the Gr.1 Railway (1200m) at Te Rapa.

“He’s very well and came through his last run in good order. He’s not one of the favoured runners, but we are confident he will run well,” O’Sullivan said.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we probably should have missed the Railway and aimed him at the Telegraph the way it turned out, but he’s certainly looking to run further than the 1200m.

“He’s had time between his runs and we are confident he will run a strong 1400m.”

A trip to the Queensland winter carnival is on the radar for Dragon Leap with the Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 10 is seen as an attractive option for the six-year-old.

Meanwhile, the stable was thrilled with Waitak’s last-start fourth on a heavy track in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) as he progresses toward the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).

“The horse ran exceptionally well and his sectionals were very good,” O’Sullivan said.

“At this stage, we are looking to run him in the Avondale Guineas (Gr.2, 2100m) and if he performs well he will take his place in the Derby.” – NZ Racing Desk

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