Trainer Ben Foote is determined to regroup from two successive Group One disappointments.
In the space of less than a week he watched both his Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) hopeful Sakura Girl and Gr.1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) raider Babylon Berlin fail to finish off after sitting on-speed in races both run at break-neck tempos.
Babylon Berlin is back in New Zealand for a break after finishing seventh behind compatriot Imperatriz in the William Reid at Moonee Valley, after taking on In The Congo and Jigsaw who ultimately wilted to finish second-last and third-last respectively.
“They were going ten to the furlong and he decided to go faster at the 800m, it was just impossible. She went a really good race,” Foote said.
“I was going to go to Perth where we had a slot for the Quokka (A$4million, 1200m), but I decided we will put her away and have one more good crack again at the Railway (Gr.1, 1200m) and Telegraph (Gr.1, 1200m) and then whether we head over to Australia again, I’m not too sure, but we are definitely going to target those two races.”
Babylon Berlin had an outstanding season but finished second to Levante in the Telegraph and second to Imperatriz in both the Railway and the Gr.1 Waikato Sprint (1400m).
“She has got a big one in her, no doubt,” Foote said.
“She still paid her way in Australia, picking up $20,000 for seventh but we haven’t spoken too much about future plans. I was pretty disheartened and I just wanted her home and in the paddock.”
Foote’s Group Three-winning three-year-old Sakura Girl finished sixth in the New Zealand Oaks won by high-class filly Pennyweka, who subsequently won the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m).
But Foote was left frustrated by the ride, with Sakura Girl under Kozzi Asano setting a suicidal pace over the 2400m journey.
“The times said how hard he went. They ran 1:12 for the first 1200m and 1:18 for the second 1200m,” he said.
“I thought on the back straight we were in trouble. To even finish where she did was a very good effort I thought.”
A quality daughter of Iffraaj, Sakura Girl chased home star filly Prowess when second in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m) before comfortably winning the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) prior to the Oaks anticlimax.
After briefly being sent to the spelling paddock, Sakura Girl could still be considered for Group One options in her Classic season.
“I actually brought her back in,” Foote said.
“We were pretty much booked to go to Adelaide but we are not quite there so we are probably going to go the Championship Stakes (Gr.3, 2100m) on April 22 at Pukekohe and see how she goes with a view to heading to the Queensland Oaks (Gr.1, 2200m).”
Meanwhile, Foote has reported that unbeaten galloper Press Charges, a last-start Listed winner whom Foote part-owns, will do his future racing overseas.
“He is back at my stable and he goes into quarantine next week and has been sold to Hong Kong,” Foote said.
With winter approaching, Foote is not expecting to have a huge volume of runners but he is keen to support his local club at Cambridge, while he is also excited by the young prospects coming through the stable.
“I have had a massive clean-out of horses really and have a hell of a lot of young stock to come through and some pretty exciting horses I think coming up,” he said.
“There are quite a few expensive ones that I bought last year that will trial up that are pretty decent horses but there is a good chance they will be sold.
“I have got a Zoustar for Trelawney that I think quite highly of. There is plenty there actually.”