New Zealand horseman John Sargent is hoping his lightly-raced gelding Shanghai Bund can improve on their last-start Aussie debut and genuinely challenge the dominant Darley-owned duo in this Saturday’s BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.
With Peter Snowden enjoying a stranglehold over this year’s two-year-old Group 1 features, the Victorian trainer looks set to make it five elite levels in the juvenile arena on Saturday week with stablemates Benfica and Free Wheeling laying their TJ Smith claims on the line at Eagle Farm this Saturday.
The final lead-up to the $500,000 Group 1 showdown on Stradbroke Handicap Day, the $250,000 Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) will run as Eagle Farm Race 4 this Saturday and has attracted a field of 12 promising youngsters.
While Snowden’s pair will start the favourites – Lonhro colt and last-start Listed Hampden Stakes winner Benfica ($3) drawn in barrier four while Free Wheeling ($4.60) will jump from gate five looking for back-to-back Group wins following their Gr. 2 Champagne Classic success a fortnight ago – one runner at longer odds looking for an upset is Sargent’s Shanghai Bund.
Currently rated a $14 chance for the BRC Sires Produce, Bachelor Duke gelding Shanghai Bund has had just three starts to date and despite their potential, has suffered an early blow drawing wide with barrier 11 for Saturday.
After breaking their maiden status with an impressive three and a half length win back home in New Zealand on April 20 at Te Aroha, Shanghai Bund was bought over to Australia by Sargent.
In their first run down under, the two-year-old could only manage to finish five lengths away sixth to Benfica in the Hampden Stakes at Doomben on May 14 after starting from a horror barrier 12.
Despite this run, Sargent and the horse’s connections saw enough to pay the first acceptance fee for Shanghai Bund in the upcoming TJ Smith.
Originally Shanghai Bund was to have a run at Doomben last Saturday in the $100,000 Listed The Phoenix (1350m) against older company, but was scratched from the race in a minor setback.
Sargent has assured followers that the horse would go around this weekend, however, and the reason for the scratching was nothing major and more of a precaution.
“He trotted up sound, but the vet said there was a bit of swelling down the side of the leg he got cast on, so the safest thing to do was to late-scratch,” Sargent said.
“There was a bit of skin off…nothing major…but I said he was too good a horse for this.
“I said take him out.”
The astute trainer is confident Shanghai Bund will be fit and fresh this Saturday and could surprise a few.
“He’s had a gallop up on Tuesday…so he should make fitness,” he said.
Shanghai Bund is one of two horses Sargent will saddle up in the BRC Sires Produce on Saturday along with Largo Da Barra.
Well-bred Encosta De Lago colt Largo Da Barra has drawn barrier eight and will be ridden by Opie Bosson, while in-form hoop Luke Nolen will take the mount on Shanghai Bund.
Sargent has said he will inspect the BRC Sires Produce Stakes field closely before giving Nolen final instructions for how to ride Shanghai Bund on Saturday.
“I’ll see if there’s much speed in the race…he could go back…there are some pretty smart two-year-olds there,” he said.
“He could be ridden aggressively…he can go either way really.
“Luke Nolen is obviously in form.”
With The TJ Smith looming, Sargent is sure that Shanghai Bund will be a genuine contender with the step-up in distance if they can make the field.
“The mile will suite him even better,” he said.
Largo Da Barra is first-up after a three week break following an eye-catching win at the Sunshine Coast back on May 15 carrying 57kg, but is a $31 roughie for Saturday’s race.
Sargent is also confident that Largo Da Barra has the potential for greatness next season, if not this.
“Largo De Barra should be a Derby horse next year,” he said.
The other runner for Sargent at Eagle Farm’s Queensland Oaks Day this weekend is his classy four-year-old Keeper mare St Germaine.
Coming off an excellent last-start second to fellow Kiwi Firebolt in the Group 3 Lord Mayor’s Cup (1615m) at Doomben on May 21, St Germaine has been accepted for the $80,000 Listed Spear Chief Handicap (1500m) but Sargent is hopeful she will get a run in the lucrative $200,000 Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m) as the second emergency.
She has drawn barrier 12 for both races and with plenty of time between now and race day, there could easily be some withdrawals from the Dane Ripper pushing her into the field.
If St Germaine doesn’t gain a Dane Ripper start, Sargent is certain she will be hard to beat in the Spear Chief.
“The 1500 looks ideal,” he said.
“She’s drawn a shade wide but I’m very happy with the horse.
“With that run (the Lord Mayor’s Cup) under her belt and a gallop on Wednesday she’ll be nice and fresh.
“She’s well-weighted in both races.
“She’s four and three kilos off the good mares in that race (the Dane Ripper) and she’ll be very competitive.”
“She’s loving it there (in Queensland) with the sun on her back and she’s really back to her best.”
St Germaine’s main Brisbane aim this season is the $500,000 Group 1 Winter Stakes (1400m) for the fillies and mares at Eagle Farm on June 25.