Snowden has dominated the two-year-old races throughout the autumn and winter seasons thanks to a quartet of Group 1 wins with Sepoy in the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper and Helmet taking out the AJC Sires’ Produce – Champagne Stakes double.
Last Saturday Snowden and the dynamic Darley operation once again showed off the class of the youngsters in their stables, this time in Brisbane with Benfica claiming victory in the Listed Hampden Stakes (1200m) on BTC Cup Day by a breezy three and a quarter lengths.
But Rosehill-based trainer Ryan is convinced the end of the Snowden era is approaching and he holds great confidence that his well-performing gelding Hot Snitzel is the one to beat in the $175,000 Group 2 Champagne Classic (1200m) on Doomben Cup Day this Saturday.
The Champagne Classic is one of the primary lead-up runs for horses heading towards the premier two-year-olds feature of the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, the $500,000 Group 1 TJ Smith (1600m) at Eagle Farm’s Stradbroke Handicap Day on June 11.
Hot Snitzel was one of 13 final acceptors for the Champagne Classic this morning, while Snowden will attempt back-to-back juvenile black-types in Brisbane with Ad Valorem colt Free Wheeling.
Both emerging stars, along with Benfica, are among the 170-plus early entries for this year’s TJ Smith showdown next month.
While Snowden is seeking a clean sweep in the 2YO Group 1’s, with Benfica leading the way after last Saturday’s success, Ryan is hot on his heels with Hot Snitzel.
Both Hot Snitzel and Free Wheeling have drawn awkwardly for their clash on Saturday, Hot Snitzel faring slightly better with barrier nine while Free Wheeling is out wide in gate 12.
Last start Hot Snitzel recorded their second career win from six starts when coasting to a resounding six and a half length victory in the listed Ken Russell Memorial Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast on May 7.
The win came two starts after Hot Snitzel failed to match it with Snowden’s star Sepoy when finishing over eight lengths away 12th in the coveted Golden Slipper.
While Free Wheeling remains a maiden, the progressive runner certainly showed improvement when finishing second to Manawanui first-up at Canterbury a fortnight ago and Snowden is sure the best is still to come.
Saturday will be the start of Ryan’s campaign to take on Benfica, and possibly Free Wheeling again if they show form, in both the Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) on June 4 and then the TJ Smith a week later.
“I’m not afraid of Benfica,” Ryan stated.
“Hot Snitzel will run in the Champagne Stakes on Saturday and Corey Brown was booked last week as soon as I heard Nash (Rawiller) wouldn’t be appealing his careless riding suspension.”
Saturday will be the third time Browne takes the mount on Hot Snitzel having ridden him to victory on debut at Rosehill last December and again in their failed Golden Slipper attempt.
“I’ve got a good form line on Benfica with Schiffer who beat him at Randwick on Boxing Day,” Ryan continued.
Ryan’s Snitzel filly Schiffer defeated Benfica by nearly a length in the AJC Corporate Membership Handicap on December 26, a race Champagne Classic rival Free Wheeling finished fourth in.
“I’m not saying Hot Snitzel is better than Schiffer but he’s improved a lot and he was always going to improve after finishing third in the Kindergarten Stakes (Randwick, April 9) before he came here,” Ryan said.
“He had a rushed campaign for the Golden Slipper and then backed up the next week to run third in the Kindergarten.
“I’ve always said he’ll be better once he gets out to 1400 and 1600 metres.
“He’s got a staying pedigree.”
Other notable two-year-olds lining up in the Champagne Classic this year include Liam Birchley’s consistent Doomben winner Show A Prince and the Gillian Heinrich-trained Gold Coast duo of Internal Revenue and Military Grace.
Exceed And Excel colt Internal Revenue is first-up for the season after finishing dead last in the Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic in January, while General Nediym filly and black-type winner Military Grace is in the same boat having run 14th in the Magic Millions last start after scoring successive Listed races in Brisbane back in December.
The 2011 Champagne Classic will run as Doomben Race 3 on Saturday, the day’s highlight event being the $500,000 Group 1 Kirks Doomben Cup (2020m) that drew 10 final acceptors.
2011 Bollinger Champagne Classic Final Field & Barriers
|1||14X2031||HOT SNITZEL||Gerald Ryan||Corey Brown||9||56kg|
|2||121||SHOW A PRINCE||Liam Birchley||Glen Colless||7||56kg|
|3||11X358X32||DOUBLE IMPACT||Jackie Crompton||Shane Scriven||10||56kg|
|4||1X41||DR ICHI||Bevan Laming||Larry Cassidy||1||56kg|
|5||31240X||INTERNAL REVENUE||Gillian Heinrich||Chris Munce||3||56kg|
|6||43X2||FREE WHEELING||Peter Snowden||Hugh Bowman||12||56kg|
|8||45X5||ST DARCI (NZ)||Brian Smith||James McDonald (a)||2||56kg|
|9||5||MCNEICE||Kelly Purdy||Paul Hammersley||13||56kg|
|10||2110X||MILITARY GRACE||Gillian Heinrich||Daniel Griffin||4||54kg|
|11||138X0||FLYING JET||Steven O’dea||Luke Nolen||5||54kg|
|12||2X23||BELLE D’AMOUR||Barry Baldwin||Brad Stewart||11||54kg|
|13||56L3915X04||MERRYANNA||Maryann Thexton||Jim Byrne||6||54kg|