Kiwis a threat to Baker’s Renaissance

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  • June 06, 2023
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Leading Sydney trainer Bjorn Baker is hoping to get one up over his old mates from Cambridge.

The expat Kiwi, who is currently fifth on the Sydney Trainer’s Premiership, will saddle in-form filly Renaissance Woman in Saturday’s Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm.

With the scratching on Thursday of chief rival Fireburn, Renaissance Woman is now atop markets for the Oaks.

Baker was looking forward to again locking horns with the Gary Portelli-trained Fireburn, who beat the Reliable Man filly home in the Gr.2 The Roses (2000m) last start.

Both Baker and Portelli share the trainer’s tower at Warwick Farm, where no doubt there is plenty of banter. But with that adversary sidelined, the jovial Baker now has his eyes firmly on his former colleagues from Cambridge, who are also well represented.

The Ben Foote-trained Sakura Girl and Tony Pike-trained Cheval D’Or have travelled across the Tasman for the fillies feature, while expat Kiwis Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young (Proscenium Arch), John Sargent (So Dazzling) and Chris Waller (Super Chilled) are all represented with horses that originated in New Zealand.

“There are a couple of Kiwis in there, I don’t know why we open our borders to those people, we should shut them off,” joked Baker on RSN.

“The Kiwis love it over here; the stake money is so good. I say it’s like we moved from Somalia to Australia – it has been a good country for me and a good country for all of the Kiwis.”

While Sakura Girl ran well when third in The Roses, Baker, who moved to Sydney back in 2011, said he hadn’t got a gauge on the form of Gr.3 Championship Stakes (2100m) winner Cheval D’Or.

“I don’t know too much about her other than I know her trainer Tony Pike well,” he said.

“I’d love to beat Tony and apparently she’s got good form, but she’ll jump from a wide gate. The other horse I know a little bit about is Proscenium Arch, she was good last time and Trent and Natalie are there too, so I’ve got a few old mates from Cambridge in the race and it would be nice to beat them, that’s for sure.”

A Group Three winner last spring, Renaissance Woman won the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) two starts back and has been perfectly prepared for Saturday’s contest.

“She’s in good order and that’s all you can do as the trainer is really worry about your own horse. She was good last time, and I thought prior to that she was probably better. 2200m on a good track with a good gate (barrier 6) should suit.

“We’re happy with her. She goes into this race fourth up and we’re looking forward to it. She goes in as a definite chance but it’s a big field and in these big races you need luck regardless. She’s probably going be, if not midfield, definitely in the back half and Josh (Parr, jockey) is going to have to find a way through.

“I think the key with her is getting her into a good rhythm and not getting her out of her comfort zone at all. I think even last start, sometimes when you draw those good gates, and you’re sort of just about forced to take up a better spot than what you would be otherwise, it can work against you at times.”

Purchased at Karaka for $250,000 as a yearling, the well-related Renaissance Woman is by Westbury Stud stallion Reliable Man, who has sired Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2500m) winner Miami Bound and Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Sentimental Miss.

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