Walker pair swoop on Rotorua feature

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  • May 10, 2023
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Te Akau Racing gallopers Leaderboard and The Mighty Spar might be earmarked as prodigious jumpers of the future but trainer Mark Walker is hoping the pair can soar to flat riches in Saturday’s Listed Campbell Infrastructure Rotorua Cup (2200m).

Walker makes no secret that he has a high opinion of both stayers in jumping roles but equally believes that conditions for the Rotorua Cup should see both extremely competitive.

The Mighty Spar finished second at his only hurdle appearance, while Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) winner Leaderboard was scratched from his planned hurdle debut at Te Rapa last Saturday with a minor hoof niggle.

“Both horses are going to make really good jumpers. They can stay and they jump very well,” Walker said.

“But they can both be really competitive in these types of races on the flat. Leaderboard had a sore foot for the hurdle the other day but he worked this morning and worked fine. This is his sort of track. It’s going to be a dour, dour staying test so it should suit both of ours.

“If The Mighty Spar would just jump out of the gates better, that would be the key to his chances but I’ve used up nearly all of my tricks to try to get him sorted. He’s got a two-second window. If he’s in there for two seconds, he jumps with them. If he’s in there any longer, he’s just got that tendency to half-rear coming out of the gates.”

Imported Street Cry eight-year-old gelding Leaderboard has won seven of his 45 starts and has been at his best on rain-affected tracks, winning the Wellington Cup at Trentham in January on a heavy 10 track, conditions he will again strike on Saturday.

Five-year-old Savabeel gelding The Mighty Spar is also adept on rain-affected tracks and showed he could mix it at this level when he finished fourth in last month’s Listed Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) at Hastings.

“It’s going to be a really heavy, testing track and that will suit horses that can run 2400m and beyond – and both ours can, so I’d expect them to be good chances for sure. They both look as though they are going to get in with nice weights and that brings them right into it.”

Walker will also shoot for black-type success with Savabeel four-year-old mare Synchronize tackling the Listed Rotorua ITM Stakes (1400m).

“I’d have preferred it not to be a wet track for her but 1400m is her pet distance and she’s won at Rotorua before but that was at this meeting last year and it was on a track bordering a good 4,” Walker said.

“I remember for the Matamata meeting on the Friday this time last year, they were irrigating the track but both those meetings will have bottomless tracks this weekend.

“But she’s a mare and this is a Group Three race that will be her last run for the season. It will all just depend if she can get through the ground and what sort of pattern there is on the day.

“She’s a Listed winner and there’s more to come from her next season. She’s still at a pretty good place in the handicaps too.”

Synchronize, a heavy track winner on debut, was promoted to win the Listed Hallmark Handicap (1200m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day.

Walker entered 10 runners for Rotorua on Saturday and was pleased with the trio of Inca Belle, Kabugee and Accidental Tourist as they prepared for the 1400m set-weights and penalties three-year-old race.

“They should all run well,” Walker said.

“With Inca Belle, we could look at the Tauranga Classic (Listed, 1400m) on June 24 with her if she runs up to expectations and if Kabugee and Accidental Tourist show they can get through the ground all right, they could bank some decent prize money through this period.”

Walker has 19 horses entered for Matamata, the trainer using the meeting as a guide to planning for each horse’s future.

Meanwhile, Walker has confirmed he won’t have a runner at this year’s Brisbane winter carnival.

“When there were no direct flights, it put us off a bit and we just felt there were better opportunities here in the spring for the ones we had considered if they stayed at home and had a decent spell.”

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