Tamworth-based trainer Sue Grills may have taken the assurance of entering Border Rebel for a race at Randwick this Saturday, but she holds high hopes that it will be the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) that her gallant galloper is contesting this weekend.
Johannesburg five-year-old Border Rebel is guaranteed a start in the Stradbroke having been elevated up to ninth on the latest order of entry for Brisbane’s most prestigious Winter Carnival showdown.
After winning the Listed Hinkler Handicap (1200m) at Eagle Farm first-up on April 23, most recently Border Rebel has just missed out on his spot in the placings.
Running fourth to Motspur in the Scone Quality (1100m) on May 13, the gelding’s latest run was a brave fourth behind now Stradbroke favourite Beaded in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) on May 28.
Untested at 1400m and unplaced in their two most recent runs, Border Rebel is now rated a $51 roughie in the current Stradbroke Handicap odds after sitting as short as $11 in earlier markets.
Grills, however, believes this price on Border Rebel is very generous and that he shouldn’t be discounted just yet.
“I was surprised so many people commented that Border Rebel was disappointing at Doomben (in the 10,000) because I was over the moon with his run,” Grills said.
“He’s such a small horse, when he has to take on horses like Love Conquers All at weight-for-age, he can’t carry that big weight and beat them.”
Border Rebel has carried no less than 59kg for their three runs this prep, and was able to win with 60kg on their back in the Hinkler Handicap.
For the Stradbroke on Saturday they will advantage from the big drop back in weights, currently allocated just 52.5 kg but this will rise to 53.5kg at acceptance stage.
Grills believes her horse won’t know himself with this weight, Border Rebel not having carried below 56kg since May last year.
“In the Stradbroke, he drops from 59kg to 53.5kg and that brings him right into the race,” she said.
“He will be fourth-up from a spell and cherry rip for the Stradbroke.”
While her focus is firmly on getting Border Rebel ready for the test of a lifetime in the Stradbroke, as a Plan B she has also entered him for the $100,000 Listed June Stakes (1100m) at Randwick on Saturday also, a race Gai Waterhouse’s Golden Rose runner-up Squamosa is set to make their highly-anticipated return in.
“I’ll give him a good gallop at home and that will bring him on for Saturday,” Grills said of Border Rebel.
“I did enter him for the June Stakes at Randwick just in case the track was too firm at Eagle Farm as the horse doesn’t like those conditions.
“We don’t have to make our minds up until (Wednesday) but at this stage we are definitely going to Brisbane.”
While Grills is hoping for a little give in the track at Eagle Farm on Saturday, premier Brisbane trainer Robert Heathcote has his fingers crossed for the opposite.
Vying for his maiden elite level win, Heathcote has both Woorim and Buffering in Stradbroke contention this year with the former considered his best chance of success.
Five-year-old Show A Heart gelding Woorim comes off a win in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21 and is well-liked in the Stradbroke markets paying $8.
Heathcote is bullish that if the track is dry and the ground firm, Woorim can claim a Stradbroke upset.
“I think he has the best finishing sprint of any horse in the race, including Beaded, and if Corey Brown (jockey) can have him in the right spot and within striking distance, he’s good enough to get them down,” Heathcote stated.
“On a dry track, he can win the Stradbroke.”