Jockey Craig Grylls will be looking for his third Wellington Cup win tomorrow aboard the Ladies Man. Photo / Race Images
Allan Sharrock has only one part of his Wellington Cup plan still to pull off — winning Saturday’s $300,000 feature at Trentham.
Sharrock is one of New Zealand’s shrewdest trainers, his strike rate consistently hovering around five, which some trainers can pull off for a season or two but few do consistently.
He has three representatives in the 3200m Group 3 and they aren’t the type of horses who embellish that strike rate because another one of Sharrock’s skills has been getting horses like them to the Cup with the right weight to win, which often means starting them in races they can’t win.
“Some of the stayers can’t win races short of a certain distance anyway, but for a horse like Waisake he has also been racing himself back into fitness,” says Sharrock of the 2021 Cup winner.
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His plan starting the spring was to get progressive stayer Ladies Man into the Cup with 53kg, letting him hit his peak once the weights were released, and getting Waisake sound and healthy after a leg issue last year, but fit enough to win another Cup.
He has also then added a third representative in Southroad, who he sees as more of a New Zealand Cup horse, but with that race 10 months away his owners are happy to give him the 3200m experience.
It is a case of so far, so good and Sharrock says with the pieces having fallen together Ladies Man is clearly his best chance.
“He is a good stayer and while he has never won over 3200m I have never been more sure a horse would run 3200m at his first attempt than this guy,” says Sharrock.
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“He has a good jockey and the right weight so he has to be top pick but old Waisake has been there and done that and gets Opie [Bosson] which is worth a couple of lengths.
“And Southroad will be better for the experience and would be the one suited if any rain came, but top five would be a good result for him.”
While jockey Craig Grylls will be looking for his third Wellington Cup win (Lincoln King last year and Graphic in 2014), Bosson has remarkably never won the iconic race, even though he has won every modern-day Group 1 in New Zealand.
That anomaly is best explained by the fact most 3200m Cups in New Zealand these days are won by horses carrying 55kg or less, a weight Bosson rarely rides at, so he would only get on a realistic winning Wellington Cup chance every five years, and some Years doesn’t ride in the race.
Ladies Man may have arrived in the right race at the right time but his $2.50 final field quote is hardly great value in a 16-horse field, even if half those starters are racing well out of their grade.
“I think the horses for my three to beat are the two James/Wellwood ones,” says Sharrock.
“Dionysus won well last start but he has to carry the 57kg while Contemplation was good enough last Saturday at Pukekohe and he doesn’t have much weight.”
The rest are a mixed bag, with Inmyshadow proven over 3200m when second in the NZ Cup, Charms Star a black-type mare who always seems to be running on, and Hinepara is last season’s Avondale Cup winner who has won her only two starts past 2100m so is the best place value.