A seven-day delay to the Listed ATC Foundation Winter Challenge (1500m) paved the way for talented New Zealand-bred Cross Talk to make a highly impressive black-type debut at Rosehill on Saturday.
The A$160,000 feature was originally scheduled to be held at Randwick last weekend, but the meeting was called off due to extremely rain-affected track conditions. The Winter Challenge was instead added to the Rosehill card a week later, and Cross Talk was among the late entries.
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained four-year-old had already made a big impression in his short career, winning four out of six including a last-start romp by almost four lengths in Benchmark 78 grade at Randwick on July 9. Saturday’s Winter Challenge was his toughest test yet and a significant step up in class, but Cross Talk was well and truly up to the task.
Positively ridden by Jean Van Overmeire, Cross Talk strode forward to take the lead inside the first 400 metres of the race. He dominated every step of the way from there, producing a potent kick in the straight and dashing clear to win by two lengths from fellow New Zealand-bred Toomuchtobear.
From just seven starts, Cross Talk has now recorded five wins and two placings, earning A$232,570, and Bott believes this could be just the beginning.
“He keeps raising the bar, which is fantastic to see,” he said. “Every time we’ve challenged him, he’s really come back strongly, and he’s done it again today.
“We’re starting to work him out a little bit. I think he races that little bit better when he’s fresh and has his runs spaced. He’s had those three weeks between each of his last couple of starts, and it’s worked out well for him.
“We didn’t necessarily intend on being in this particular race today, and we’ve tested him against this grade a little bit earlier than what we thought, so we might have to have a rethink about what we do next.
“But there’s certainly no turning back now after winning a Listed race today, and particularly in the manner in which he did it, so that’s very encouraging for us going forward.
“At the end of the year, he might be a nice horse for the Villiers (Gr.2, 1600m), with the prize-money that’s there now. I think he’s going to be a really strong miler for us, and we could potentially stretch him out too – he’s got that lovely high cruising speed.
“Time is on his side. He’s been up for a while now, so I’m not sure how long we keep him going into the spring, but we’ll see how he pulls up and have a look at the programme.”
Cross Talk is the first stakes winner for Keano, who stands at Sentry Hill Farms in Taranaki and has sired a total of 22 winners from 34 runners. He stands for a service fee of just $2000.
Cross Talk was bred by Kerry Caldwell, who originally shared in the ownership when the gelding began his racing career in the New Plymouth stable of Debbie Harris. He won a trial at Waverley, then made a big first impression with a four-length romp on debut at his home track in May of last year before being privately purchased in a deal brokered by Phill Cataldo.
He is now raced by a syndicate made up of more than a dozen owners, including New Zealand’s Alan Galbraith