A tilt at the Gr.1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) is a possibility for Tauranga sprinter Gospodin after a highly encouraging Australian debut at Gosford last Saturday.
Gospodin faced a number of quality sprinters in the Listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m), including Gr.1 Galaxy (1100m) winner Shelby Sixtysix. But after backing off an early speed duel, he made his challenge three from the fence and was outrun only by Blondeau, who didn’t have to go around a horse.
Trainer Jim Pender said prior to the race that his prime aim at Gosford was to see how he measured up to Australian sprinters and he was very pleased with the outcome.
“It was a huge run. I didn’t realise it until I looked at the stats yesterday afternoon, and he actually ran five metres further than the winner and was beaten by a short neck, so there’s even more merit,” Pender said.
“He’s come through the race well. Since he’s been here he’s ticked all the boxes for me.”
Gospodin emerged as a very good wet-weather sprinter last winter, winning six races in a row between early June and early October. After a summer break he resumed with a fifth placing in March prior to a half-length second to Johny Johny in the Listed Power Turf Sprint (1200m) at Hastings April 16, conceding 3kg to the winner.
That run and the prospect of carrying high weights throughout winter persuaded Pender to take Gospodin to Australia, the first time he’s done so with a horse for 10 years, and Saturday’s effort convinced him to send the horse to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to prepare for the Gr.3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21.
If he goes well there, a tilt at the Stradbroke at Eagle Farm on June 11 is a possibility.
“I’ve chucked in a nomination for the Stradbroke because I thought that if we’re over here, it would be stupid not to nominate,” he said.
“If he was lucky enough to win the BRC Sprint at Doomben, I think he would be exempt for the ballot for the Stradbroke. We’ll play it one day at a time, but that could be on the cards.”
Gospodin will this week head to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, where Pender’s niece is a stable worker, and be based there for his Australian campaign.
New South Wales jockey Brock Ryan, who rode Gospodin in the Takeover Target Stakes, will stick with the horse in Queensland, Pender said.
“After he rode him the other day he was that happy I think he’d just about walk there to get to ride him.”
Gospodin has produced his best on soft or heavy footing and though Pender thinks he’ll handle a dead track without a problem, further rain will probably help his chances.
“This week they’ve forecast about a month’s worth of rain in a week, so that will probably be to his liking,” Pender said.
“I think the increase in distance is also going to be more to his liking as well. After the flight and a 12-hour float trip, it’s as good as a couple of runs so he should be ready to go further.”
Once his Queensland campaign is finished, Pender hopes to bring Gospodin back home and set him for the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings in spring.
Gospodin is a homebred raced by Markwood Lodge, which is run by the Matijasevich family. They breed and race a number of horses, including this year’s Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) winner Mali Ston.
“There were a few offers to buy Gospodin early on,” Pender said. “But they enjoy to race their horses, and there’s more relations of his to come on. They love their horses.”
Though Pender is staying in Australia with Gospodin until at least the BRC Sprint, his team is still busy in New Zealand, being looked after by his son Kelly.
They include El Bandolero, who overcame an interrupted run to finish fourth in a Rating 65 1600m contest at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“Realistically he should have won that,” Pender said. “But we’ll find another one for him and carry on.”
Pender also hopes to have four horses racing at Matamata on Friday, of which he thinks the best chances are Show A Million, who was second when resuming in a maiden 1200m contest on the same track on April 22, and a first-starter named Deep Purple.