Weight relief for Rudyard in Japan Trophy

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  • March 22, 2024
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Weight relief for Rudyard in Japan Trophy

Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Saturday’s Gr.2 Ultimate Mazda Japan Trophy (1600m) at Tauranga marks the black-type debut for Rudyard, and the in-form four-year-old benefits from a 5kg drop in weights from his previous appearance.

The son of Charm Spirit and Group One-performed mare Lady Kipling began the season with two wins to his name from 12 starts. He had earned just over $36,000 in stakes at that stage, and his rating was 65. Rudyard has added another three wins and three placings to his record from eight starts since then, lifting his earnings to $263,225 and his rating to 85.

Rudyard won a Rating 65 at Pukekohe in November and a Rating 75 at Ellerslie in the middle of January. He was then thrown in at the deep end in the inaugural $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 27, where he was a gallant third behind Group One stars Desert Lightning and Legarto.

Trainer Tony Pike stepped Rudyard up to open class for another victory at Ellerslie on February 17, and then he finished fourth behind Adam I Am under a tough 60kg topweight at the same venue on March 9.

“He was really a victim of the lack of depth in our open ranks at the moment, going all the way from 55.5kg to 60kg after just one win in an open handicap,” Pike said.

“He goes back down to 55kg again this weekend. The spread in the weights means he’s still not all that well off under the set weights and penalties conditions of the race, but we’ll definitely take the five-kilo swing.

“He’s racing in really good form this season, the best of his career so far. His best performances to date seem to have come at Ellerslie, but we’re very happy with him and we think he can be highly competitive on Saturday against what looks like quite an even field.”

Rudyard will be ridden by Michael McNab and is rated a $6 equal favourite alongside Jaarffi in the TAB’s Japan Trophy market. Pike has indicated that a return to Ellerslie for the Gr.3 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) on April 20 could be on Rudyard’s agenda later in the autumn.

Pike has two other favourites for Saturday’s Tauranga meeting, with Hat Trick rated a $2.80 chance for the Peter Clarke Bayleys Residential (1400m) and Overdrawn at $3.50 for the J Swap Contractors (1200m).

Hat Trick finished fifth in his only start last season, but has made a bold return as a four-year-old this summer with impressive victories at Pukekohe on February 21 and Ellerslie on March 9.

“He’s obviously a smart horse in the making and has won his last couple in very good style,” Pike said. “Going up in grade is never easy, but if he’s able to go forward from his wide gate and get into a good position close to the speed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him right in the finish again.”

Overdrawn cleared maiden ranks at New Plymouth in early December and has placed in all of his three starts since.

“He’s been running in some strong Rating 65 races on Group One racedays and has performed very well,” Pike said. “Dropping back from 1400m to 1200m is a bit of a query, and from a wide gate as well, but I can’t fault him at the moment and he deserves another winning turn.”

Pike warmed up for the weekend with a bold maiden win by Investigate over 2000m at New Plymouth on Friday.

That three-length victory came at the fifth time of asking for the Dundeel gelding, who had placed in all of his last three starts. That included a third at Matamata behind subsequent Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) placegetter Qali Al Farrasha.

“It may not have been an overly strong field today, but he’d been knocking on the door,” Pike said. “It was good to see him go out and score quite a comprehensive win.

“He still has some maturing to do, so he’ll go to the paddock now and should come back as a nice staying prospect as a four-year-old.”

Meanwhile, Pike reported that promising three-year-old Witz End has earned himself a shot at black-type level during the Sydney autumn carnival.

The Savabeel gelding has had four starts for two wins and two seconds. He won both of his first two races, then finished second at Taupo and was runner-up behind Grail Seeker in the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) on March 16.

“We’ve been really happy with him since Trentham, and if that continues to be the case, we’ll look at taking him to Sydney for the Carbine Club Stakes (Gr.3, 1600m) during The Championships at Randwick (on April 6),” Pike said. “He’s still got a bit to learn, and I think a trip away like that could be the making of him.”


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