Wyong trainer Mark Cross regrets he took blinkers off Victorian purchase River Tycoon at his last start when he failed on his home track on June 17 after an encouraging second there a fortnight earlier.
But he won’t make the same mistake on Thursday when the lightly-raced four-year-old lines up in the Sky Racing 4YO & Up Maiden Handicap (1350m) – and with a new rider.
Cross has booked Rachel King to partner the Written Tycoon gelding, and is confident he can break through at his eighth start, and fourth for him.
“We bought him earlier in the year (he had been placed over 1400m at Bendigo in February), and I took a fair bit of gear off him but put blinkers on when he led and ran fourth at Newcastle in May at his first start for us,” Cross said today.
“I made an error and took the blinkers off him after he ran second over 1350m at Wyong on June 3, and it backfired when he ran last of seven over 1600m there a fortnight later.
“The blinkers go back on this time, and his recent work in them has been better than ever.
“He has topweight (58.5kg) to carry, but I’m confident he will be hard to beat.”
River Tycoon was an early $3 second favourite with TAB.com.au behind fellow Wyong trainer Rod Bailey’s Mister Ripley ($2.80).
Cross also runs another recent purchase Sian (Louise Day) in the Wyong’s Next Race Meeting Sunday August 29 Benchmark 64 Handicap (1350m).
Previously prepared by Kris Lees at Newcastle, Cross secured the Pride Of Dubai three-year-old online after he had won over 1600m on his former home track on May 18.
At his first start for his new trainer, he finished seventh to dead-heaters Budhwar and General Dubai in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1350m) at Wyong on June 17.
“I have put blinkers back on him and also ear muffs,” Cross said.
“The ear muffs help keep him calm, and I have been happy with his work since he has been galloping in them.
“I feel he can run a nice race, but it won’t be easy to win with 60kg topweight.
“River Tycoon is definitely the pick of our pair.”
Cross is one of Australia’s “unique” trainers as, apart from preparing racehorses, he also trains detector dogs under he and his wife Alison’s aptly-named Unique K9 Protective Services business, acknowledged as Australia’s leading bomb detection dog outfit.
He has been involved in security for more than four decades, and his reputation saw him called on by the USA not long after the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks which killed nearly 3000 people and injured more than 6000 others.
Cross took a number of detector dogs to New York, and stayed there for a couple of months, helping them settle in to the work required.
Understandably, the trip left a lasting impression. “It was just horrific,” he said. “Words can’t describe the scene and how I felt.”
Thursday’s meeting winds up the season at Wyong, but Jockeys’ Premiership pacesetters Jason Collett (13 wins) and Brenton Avdulla (12 wins) are absentees from the eight-race card.
Nonetheless, Rachel King, Tommy Berry and Tim Clark – each currently on 10 wins – will be hard pressed to tie with Collett, let alone overhaul him.
King and Clark have six rides apiece, and Berry has five mounts.
Aside from River Tycoon, King rides Contamination ($6), On Her Word ($4.40), Gidgee Guy ($8), Ocean Go ($11), and Thailand ($15).
Clark partners Who Fancies You ($6), Spicy Restaurant ($12), Day Performer ($8), Prince Invincible ($9.50), Silent Agenda ($5.50), and Anotherthinkcomin ($12), whilst Berry’s rides are Amber One $7.50), Barrichello ($2.70), Moralist ($19), Go Gazza ($6.50), and Vanilla Sky ($10).
Godolphin’s James Cummings enters the season closer on 10 wins, and with a two-win lead over Chris Waller and Bjorn Baker.
Cummings has only one runner, Contamination, which King rides in the Ryan’s Metal Roofing Maiden Handicap (1600m).
Sydney’s premier trainer Waller has three representatives – Berry’s mount Barrichello, Apollate (Lee Magorrian) and Cat D’Oro (Josh Parr) – all contesting the De Bortoli Wines 3YO Maiden Plate (1350m).
Baker runs Into The Fire (Parr) in the Carlton Wyong Gold Cup Friday September 3 Benchmark 64 Handicap (1100m), along with Deel With Me (Jay Ford) and Lake Tai (Parr) in the Happy Birthday Grant Pidgeon Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1600m).
RACE 1 – 12.25PM: TAB.COM.AU 4YO & UP MAIDEN PLATE (1100m): RUBIELLE 1, Rockamo 2, Em Cee Gee 3.
RACE 2 – 1.00PM: SKY RACING 4YO & UP MAIDEN HANDICAP (1350m): RIVER TYCOON 1, Mister Ripley 2, Sombre Prize 3.
RACE 3 – 1.35PM: RYAN’S METAL ROOFING MAIDEN HANDICAP (1600m): KOUKLARA 1, Carlisle Bay 2, Contamination 3.
RACE 4 – 2.10PM: DE BORTOLI WINES 3YO MAIDEN PLATE (1350m): CAT D’ORO 1, Barrichello 2, Whatever I Say 3.
RACE 5 – 2.45PM: GREAT NORTHERN CLASS 1 HANDICAP (1200m): ON HER WORD 1, Sepoy Star 2, Day Performer 3.
RACE 6 – 3.25PM: CARLTON WYONG GOLD CUP FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 3 BENCHMARK 64 HANDICAP (1100m): AGRUM 1, Sniper Legend 2, Gidgee Guy 3.
Kristen Buchanan is hoping for an Oakfield double when she saddles up two runners at Thursday’s Wyong meeting.
Three-year-old filly Oakfield Arrow will have her final run this preparation in the 1350m Fillies and Mares BM64, while stablemate Oakfield Cherokee steps up to the 2100m in the Class 1 and Maiden.
Buchanan believes both runners will be very competitive and continue a good late season run for the stable.
The stable has had four winners in May and with 22 wins to date is closing in on last season’s total of 24.
“It’s been a nice run and hopefully it can continue. Our strike rate is back up where it should be, so I’m pleased about that,” she said.
“My goal is to beat my best strike rate, so I’ll need about 20 percent winners and close to 40 percent placings to do that.
“I always aim for around there because if you are hitting those kinds of goals, you are doing a really good job of placing them.”
Buchanan has her eye on a Provincial Championship campaign with Oakfield Arrow, who finished strongly at her last start at Scone over 1300m on May 14, beaten only half a length.
“Oakfield Arrow is a really nice filly. She will finish out this preparation and come back much stronger next time around.
“I am anticipating her running a really good race on Thursday. I’m looking forward to getting her out to the 1350m, with the home track advantage.
“I think her last race at Scone was quite a strong field, but I don’t think that’s what got her beaten.
“She just did a little duck in at the top of the straight and kind of cost herself and then had to sustain a long run. I thought all things considered there was a lot of merit.”
Buchanan believes Press Statement three-year-old will get over more ground next preparation.
“I’ve got her earmarked as a possible Provincial Championship contender next season. She’ll have to join a few dots before then but she’s just ready-made and doesn’t do a lot wrong and is quite versatile.”
Oakfield Cherokee runs over the 2100m for the first time, but Buchanan believes the Savabeel gelding will have no problem with the distance.
He hit the line strong when beaten half a length at his last start at Newcastle on May 18 over 1600m.
“He’s generally a horse I like to have on a big, roomy track because of his running style but Wyong ridden the right way can still work for him,” Buchanan said.
“He’s not a horse you can stir up early to be in a closer position because he’ll over race. You’ve just got to let him get comfortable and do his best work late.
“I don’t think the trip will be a problem at all. I’m more concerned with the early tempo, which could present a bit of a challenge.
“I’d love to have some speed on which would be a big help to us. You need to save all his petrol for a last crack at them and you need to chime in at the right time at Wyong.
“I think he’s a really nice horse who is still learning how to race. He’s well-bred and has a lot of potential as a stayer.”
Aaron Bullock will partner both horses, having previously ridden them in trials.
The first of eight races gets underway at 12.10pm.
Race 1 – 12.10pm: WYONG ROOS FOUNDATION MAIDEN (1000m): 1 WALKIN’ TALKIN, 2 Compassionate, 3 Buckin’ Rippa, 4 Sienna Blaze.