Hopes of catching a winning break in Champagne

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  • April 26, 2023
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To Catch A Thief will sport a fresh look at Pukekohe Park on Saturday when he attempts to break his maiden after competing with recent distinction in far stronger company.

The son of U S Navy Flag has performed well at the top level this preparation and success in the Listed Staphanos At Novara Park Champagne Stakes (1600m) would be both deserved and emotional for all concerned.

To Catch A Thief races in the colours of Ashford Lodge’s Peter Walker and an ownership group that also includes the estate of the late Sir Patrick Hogan, his wife Justine Lady Hogan and John and Karlene Murdoch.

“It would be a very special win, they have all put so much into racing,” said Graham Richardson, who trains the two-year-old with Rogan Norvall.

The addition of headgear could be the spark required for To Catch A Thief to successfully round off his juvenile campaign.

“He tried to duck out of gaps in his last race, hence the blinkers going on. It’s not ideal running first time over a mile with them on, but he’s a smart horse, he’s pretty intelligent,” Richardson said.

To Catch A Thief was freshened after he ran third in the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) on New Year’s Day and returned to finish in behind the major players in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m).

“In the Group One at Pukekohe, he could have run closer and should have run third and not fourth, he just couldn’t get out in time,” Richardson said.

He then came from the tail of the field to run third in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) and jockey Craig Grylls will take the mount again.

“Let’s hope he does things right with the blinkers on and Gryllsy knows him, so hopefully that makes a difference as well,” Richardson said.

The Matamata horseman can’t fault To Catch A Thief’s condition, but a concern is one factor beyond his control.

“He’s thriving and doing very, very well. I’ve been really pleased with him,” Richardson said.

“The question mark will obviously be the state of the track and how much rain we get.”

The first foal of the winning Snitzel mare Stolen Gem, To Catch A Thief will end his juvenile season on Saturday with high hopes he will further develop and return as three-year-old feature race contender.

“He’s a lovely horse and he’s got the brain of an older horse, he just has to grow into himself,” Richardson said.

“He’ll go to the paddock after this and I’ve always thought of him as being a Derby horse.”

Stablemate Rustic will be the stable’s other runner at Pukekohe when he returns to action in the Barfoot & Thompson Maiden (1400m) in the hands of Vinnie Colgan.

“He’s a good chance, he’s drawn badly but in saying that it might be the better spot to be,” Richardson said.

“He can gallop and he’s just needed time to mature.”

A son of Redwood, Rustic has placed twice from six appearances and while he hasn’t raced since last winter, he drew attention to his resuming prospects when runner-up in a 1000m trial at Taupo last month.

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