Putting behind him a disaster day on the track that was last Saturday at Eagle Farm, top Sydney trainer Peter Snowden is confident this weekend’s Stradbroke – Queensland Derby day double could be well within his reach.
Originally it was the $500,000 Group 1 TJ Smith (1600m) Snowden looked to have in the bag for this Saturday at Eagle Farm, Darley Stud’s leading trainer primed to make it a five-from-five whitewash in the Group 1’s for two-year-olds this year.
But adversity struck Snowden and his two top TJ Smith hopes on Queensland Oaks Day.
A second before the barriers went up for the final TJ Smith lead-up, the BRC Sires Produce Stakes, Snowden’s last-start Champagne Classic winner Free Wheeling reared up in the gates before falling and getting lodged under the barriers.
It was a sensational start to the Sires Produce, Free Wheeling drawn beside his well-fancied stablemate Benfica.
Lonhro colt Benfica, who started the favourite, understandably suffered a shock with his stablemate putting on such a devastating show, missed the start and failed to come within six lengths of runaway winner Hot Snitzel in finishing sixth.
“We wanted to be in the first three or four, but he took fright when Browny’s (Corey Brown) horse went off and we were never in the right spot,” Benfica’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy said.
Snowden mirrored McEvoy’s comments on the run by Benfica in the BRC Sires Produce, giving the horse credit for hitting the line as hard as they did.
“The field jumped three lengths in front of him,” Snowden said.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time of the race.
“He made a long run at them from the 500 metres and almost got to the front.”
Gerald Ryan’s winning two-year-old Hot Snitzel is now the favourite to end the Darley dominance in the juvenile races this Saturday, while Free Wheeling has been sent to the paddock for a spell.
“The Free Wheeling thing was freakish,” said Snowden.
“The barrier boys deserve credit.
“If it hadn’t been for them blokes, he (Free Wheeling) could have been hurt a lot more.
“There is a bit of bark off him, but nothing is broke….he’ll go to the paddock.”
There was more bad news for the Snowden – Darley team last Saturday with Kanzan, Divorces and Skilled also all failing to fire in their respective races.
Commands mare Kanzan was the favourite for the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m) after having won back-to-back black types this prep, but could only manage to finish eighth behind Hurtle Myrtle.
One-time favourite Divorces was also disappointing in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m), unable to back up from their promising third to Scarlett Lady in the Group 3 The Roses (2020m) when running fourth behind the glamour Kiwi on Saturday.
Group 1 winning three-year-old Skilled, despite finishing 10th to Steps In Time in the Listed Daybreak Lover Stakes (1400m), is the only one of the three set to back up this Saturday in the $250,000 Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m).
“He pulled up Ok,” Snowden said of Skilled after the Daybreak Lover.
“He is a tough horse and I’ve done it before with him – back up never worries him.”
Snowden, while maintaining optimism for the TJ Smith with Benfica, is focusing more of his attention on the two other elite level features on the Eagle Farm racecard this Saturday.
“Never mind, that is life and we’ve got to move on,” Snowden said of the horror Oaks Day results.
The marquee race at the meet is the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m), for which Snowden prepares the hot favourite, Beaded.
He could also have as many as three runners in the other highlight at the meet, the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m).
Ultra consistent Lonhro mare Beaded confirmed her favouritism for the Stradbroke win when she held strong to defeat Love Conquers All by a mere nose in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) on May 28.
Having won a race that has produced seven of the past nine Stradbroke Handicap winners and in turn taking her unfailing race record to 10 victories and nine placings from 20 starts, Beaded looks in top shape to improve on her close fourth, beaten less than half a length in her only unplaced run to date, to Black Piranha in last year’s Stradbroke and go all the way this time.
“She’ll take a lot out of the run the other day,” Snowden said of Beaded and her win in the 10,000.
“That was always going to be the case, and I let it be known she was going to be underdone for the 10,000, that it would bring her to her top for the Stradbroke.”
Beaded, who carried 57kg to victory in the Doomben 10,000, is currently allocated 53kg for the Stradbroke Handicap but will start with 54kg when weights are lifted 1kg at acceptance stage.
“She has an incredible record for such a small horse,” Snowden said with pride.
“To be so consistent, you’ve got to take your hat off to her.
“She’ll go to the races in good order and hopefully she’ll draw a good gate.”
Meanwhile, Snowden has three of his stable’s three-year-olds vying for a start in the Queensland Derby on Saturday with Peck, Yulalona and Zachary all entered for the classic.
Of the promising trio it is Pirvotal colt Peck and Yulalona are considered Darley’s best chance, both paying $17 in the latest Derby odds behind favourite, last-start Queensland Oaks winner Scarlett Lady ($3.80) who is yet to be confirmed as a starter.
Peck has had four runs this season, most recently finishing 11th to Turnitup in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben on May 28 beaten just four lengths.
Dubai Destination gelding Yulalona, on the other hand, hasn’t raced in Queensland as yet having had their final Derby lead-up back home in Sydney winning a 2000m race at Randwick last start.
“He is one run behind, but the quick back-up from Rosehill to Randwick really brought him on,” Snowden said of Yulalona, whose two most recent runs came on successive Saturdays in Sydney.
“I took him to Queensland last Wednesday and it has enabled me to get some solid work into him.
“He has run the Derby trip before, finished midfield in the Victoria Derby (seventh to Lion Tamer) last spring on a bog track at Flemington, which he doesn’t like.
“I’m pretty confident he’ll run a strong mile and a half on Saturday.”
Commands three-year-old Zachary is further down the Queensland Derby markets rated a $41 outsider, having run fourth behind their more fancied stablemate Yulalona on May 28.
Zachary, however, may miss the race in favour of allowing Peck to gain a start by moving up the ballot.
“I won’t accept with Zachary if it means Peck can get into the race,” Snowden said.
“Zachary is not up to the class of them but he hasn’t been far away and is a fluker’s chance.
“Peck has the ability to win the race but whether he is mentally tough enough is my concern.”