Thistoll pair set to strike at Riccarton

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  • July 28, 2023
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By Aidan Rodley, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Any thoughts Riccarton trainer Ryan Thistoll might have had that Strike Force would become easier to deal with as he got older have long since dissipated.

Thistoll’s patience with the Battle Paint seven-year-old gelding has been severely tested at times but persistence could see connections reap racetrack rewards at upcoming Riccarton polytrack meetings.

Strike Force did everything but win at Riccarton last start, only caught on the line after he had slipped clear over the last 200m of the race.

Thistoll will give Strike Force the opportunity to improve on that placing when he tackles Friday’s Cavell Leith 1600 at Riccarton, a race that is likely to lead to a start at the same track on the middle day of the Grand National Festival of Racing early next month.

“It was a good effort last time. It was good to see him back to his best and showing what he’s capable of,” Thistoll said.

“Jason Laking (jockey) gets on really well with him. He’s got a lot of confidence in the horse and they just seem to click. 

“We haven’t done a lot of galloping with him leading into this one, just kept him on the fresh side, but he’s got a spring in his step and he’s come on really well.”

A winner of three of his nine starts, Strike Force will have fitness on his side going into the fourth run of his preparation, but Thistoll knows his charge well enough not to second guess what he’s about to do.

“We’re always hopeful but you can never get too confident,” Thistoll said.

“He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. He’s older now and a bit more cunning. We’ve tried a few different things. We’ve applied the blinkers and been doing a bit of jumping with him.

“Brett Murray did the jumping on him and he started off on just the logs and the poles and ended up going over the small hurdles and he’s taken to it pretty well.” 

A winner of his first two starts when prepared by Danny Crozier, Strike Force was exported to Hong Kong but strained a tendon and returned to New Zealand without racing there.

“He didn’t really handle the lifestyle in Hong Kong either. He likes being out in a paddock and getting out stretching his legs,” Thistoll said.

“I pretty much just let him do what he wants to now. Whatever it takes to keep him happy.”

Thistoll will also saddle Red Vienna in the Prezzy Card 1400, the Bull Point four-year-old gelding again the victim of a spate of wide draws.

Red Vienna has drawn barrier 17 in a field of 18 acceptances, which continues a sequence of poor draws since he transferred to Thistoll from the Cambridge stable of Tony Pike.

In four starts in the south, he has drawn 11 of 15, 11 of 14, 12 of 12 and eight of nine.

“He’s never drawn well for me. It takes tactics out of our hands but as I say to Jason (Laking), that’s his problem. He’ll go back and ride for luck with inside runs,” Thistoll said.

“He does have a pretty good sprint and he could run a good race despite the barrier draw. He’s a very good galloper and we’re happy with him.”

Thistoll is aiming Strike Force, Red Vienna and La Superba, the other horse he has in work, at the Grand National carnival’s new race, a special conditions event restricted to horses who have placed in a race on any of New Zealand’s three all-weather tracks.

The trainer has a special affinity with Riccarton, where he works as assistant course manager.

With that hat on, he’s looking forward to Grand National week.

“Everything is shaping up nicely. We’d just like to attract good numbers for the jumps races. The steeplechase course has come up great. We’ve had 110mm of rain in the last week which isn’t ideal but there’s forecast wind over the next few days so hopefully that dries it up a bit.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

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