IN Racing
News in Brief
NZ Racing Desk | September 26, 2022

Thunderstruck fork in the road looms

Mick Price was left slightly disappointed after stable star I'm Thunderstruck finished fourth in the Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on Sunday.

The son of Shocking settled second last in the run and gave the leaders a five-length start but he still loomed ominously as a winning chance halfway up the straight before just failing to finish third behind winner Alligator Blood, Mo'unga and Zaaki.

Price said I'm Thunderstruck's next start in the Gr.1 Might And Power Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 8 will decide whether he runs in the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m).

"The fork in the road for that horse has got to be the Might And Power to find out whether he's a 2000-metre horse or he's a miler," said Price, who trains in partnership with Michael Kent Jnr.

Price said he was nervous watching the race as Alligator Blood controlled the race at a slow tempo.

"It's very difficult to pick up a leader when they run four sectionals that are 12.5 seconds," he said.

"I was a little bit disappointed he didn't finish closer regardless, although I need to have a good look at the sectionals."

Bred by Tony Forlong and Jennifer Jones, I’m Thunderstruck was initially prepared in New Zealand by Matamata trainer Daniel Miller for whom he won his 1000m trial at Te Aroha before being sold privately to OTI through bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo.


Hayes looks on the Brightside

Mr Brightside's three-race winning sequence ended in Sunday's Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown, but co-trainer Ben Hayes wasn't dwelling on the rare defeat afterwards.

"They all have to lose some time, they can't always keep winning," said Hayes, who trains in partnership with his brother JD.

Ridden by Craig Williams, last season's Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) winner Mr Brightside settled fourth and couldn't improve on that position at the finish, left flat-footed by Alligator Blood upon straightening to run fifth, beaten by 2.8 lengths.

"He's had two quite easy runs this preparation (winning the Lawrence and Memsie Stakes) and that's his first real strongly run race and probably just sorted him out," Hayes said.

"I still think he went to the line fine. They are the best in the country bar Anamoe and he was only beaten just over two lengths.

"They are much more seasoned then him, so he'll take improvement and I wouldn't be changing plans with him at all."

Hayes indicated that Mr Brightside will contest the Gr.1 Might And Power Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 8, formerly known as the Caulfield Stakes, ahead of the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) two weeks later.

"We've never put headgear on him, so we've got options to play with ahead of the Cox Plate," Hayes said.

"Whilst it was disappointing we didn't finish top-three, Alligator Blood was the fit horse who had raced all the way through the year and they smartly used that to their advantage."

The Kiwi import was originally trained by Ralph Manning in Cambridge, for whom he ran a luckless fifth in his sole New Zealand start at Matamata before being sold privately to clients of the Hayes stable via Australian agent Wayne Ormond.

Manning and good friends Shaun Dromgool and Ray Johnson purchased Mr Brightside as an unraced two-year-old off for just $7,750, with some insight into the youngster.

Johnson, with his late wife Martha, had bred and sold the son of Bullbars as a yearling at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale for $22,000 via Janine Dunlop’s Phoenix Park before he had failed to meet his $50,000 reserve when re-offered at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale.

Later an opportunity arose to buy him back off and despite being aware the horse had a few tricks, Johnson jumped at the opportunity to buy back in.


Zahra Verry excited by Arc call up

Jockey Mark Zahra is excited to be heading to Paris this week to ride Verry Elleegant in Sunday's Gr.1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp.

Zahra has previously steered he Kiwi-bred to victory in both the Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).

The 11-time Group One winner has had two starts in France under the care of Francis-Henri Graffard, finishing last at her European debut in the Gr.1 Prix Jean Romanet (2000m) and then running third in the Gr.2 Prix Foy (2400m) at her most recent outing.

"I'm obviously very excited, it's one of the biggest and best races in the world, so I'm really excited to go over there," Zahra said.

"I'm on one of Australia's best stayers to go down in history, she's won the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup (Gr.1, 3200m). Her two runs have been okay but she's just looking for, you'd think, a big field and big speed, so hopefully she gets that in the Arc, and we'll see how we go."

Should Zahra land the Arc on Verry Elleegant, he'll become the 11th Australian jockey to win one of European racing's showpiece events, joining the likes of Scobie Breasley, George Moore, Gary Moore, and Bill Williamson on the honour roll.

The Melbourne-based rider will head to France on Thursday night before returning home on the Tuesday prior to the Caulfield Guineas meeting.

Mick Price I'm Thunderstruck Underwood Stakes Shocking Alligator Blood Mo'unga Zaaki Might And Power Stakes Cox Plate Michael Kent Jnr Tony Forlong Jennifer Jones Daniel Miller OTI Racing Phill Cataldo Mr Brightside Ben Hayes Craig Williams Doncaster Mile Ralph Manning Wayne Ormond Bullbars Janine Dunlop Phoenix Park New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Mark Zahra Verry Elleegant Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Longchamp Francis-Henri Graffard Caulfield Cup 2022 Melbourne Cup Scobie Breasley George Moore Gary Moore Bill Williamson