Cunneen chases a couple of firsts

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  • May 04, 2023
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Riccarton trainer Meg Cunneen is hoping to break new ground on two counts this week: securing her first stakes win on her home track and winning her first race on the all-weather surface.

Cunneen will produce promising US Navy Flag two-year-old filly Semper Supra in the Listed Berkley Stud Champagne Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton on Saturday but more pressing is Ghibellines mare Givealittle’s polytrack assignment on Thursday.

Givealittle tackles the Summit Ultra On Tap Maiden (1600m), with Cunneen optimistic the four-year-old can improve on her most recent efforts which include a second placing to subsequent black-type winner Miss Layla at Ashburton last month.

“She was slow away at Timaru last week which probably cost her running in the first four but we’ve played around with her this week in the gates and Brett (Murray, jockey) is quite confident that she’ll get away well,” Cunneen said.

“As long as they’re out and rolling, her trackwork has been good enough to suggest she’ll be a good chance. She had a bit of trouble with her breathing in her first run back and Lily Sutherland (jockey) suggested putting the noseband on her and she ran really well in it at Ashburton.

“We were quite confident at Timaru until she missed the start. She works up like a nice horse and she’ll be better again next season. If she handles the polytrack she can run in the money.”

While Cunneen would delight in polytrack success on Thursday, she’d take far greater satisfaction if last-start Riverton winner Semper Supra could claim her first black-type win at Riccarton in the Champagne Stakes.

Cunneen, who produced William Wallace for Listed Timaru Cup (1600m) success, came closest to black-type success at Riccarton when Seriously ran second in the 2021 Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m).

“It would be pretty exciting to get a big one on my home track,” Cunneen said.

“Working for Neill Ridley, we didn’t have a lot of two-year-old runners but thanks to my staff we’ve had a pretty good season with our two-year-olds.

“We really rate her. She’s got a lot of speed. At Riverton, Brett just nursed her to the line. She didn’t handle that sticky track so well but still won well. We’re hoping it’s a little bit looser on Saturday. She’s pretty bright.

“We opted to go to Riverton in preference to lining up at that last Riccarton meeting. She’s a small filly and we wanted to give her a month between runs rather than two weeks.

“We’d been quite light on her building up to her fresh-up run and we had the option of trialling her on the poly or going straight to the races and based on her trackwork, we thought we’d go straight to the races and put the blinkers on and try to give her a bit of confidence.

“We were really pleased. She blew quite hard after that run but she’s really come on now.”

Semper Supra has drawn barrier seven for the nine-horse Champagne Stakes but Cunneen sees few negatives with that gate.

“Just the way the track is with recent racing, it could be a little bit better out wider so we’re not worried about the draw. We’ll stick to what she knows and be pushing forward,” Cunneen said.

“She’s just a natural racehorse. Even in her trackwork, she’s the ultra-professional; she just wants to be there. She’s pretty small but she’s got a big attitude and tries really hard.”

Cunneen said Semper Supra would spell after Saturday’s race with a view to three-year-old fillies racing at Riccarton in the spring.

“She’ll head straight to the paddock after this one and we’ll probably target the Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200, Listed at Riccarton in September) next season.

“We don’t know whether she’ll see out the mile of the 1000 Guineas (1600m, Gr.1 at Riccarton in November) but they’re only three once so we’ll give it a go.”

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