The 2011 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap final acceptances were taken on Wednesday morning with a capacity field of 18 starters plus five emergencies lead by Peter Snowden’s Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded.
While Beaded and Doomben 10,000 placegetters Love Conquers All and Black Piranha lead the Stradbroke Handicap odds, an audacious acceptor and outsider in the race is the formerly unwanted stallion Raffaello.
Allocated 52.5kg for Saturday, Encosta De Lago six-year-old Raffaello is resuming in the Stradbroke after a lengthy break having been out of the racing scene since September last year.
After running a game second to Triple Honour in last year’s Eagle Farm Cup, Raffaello was brought back for the spring where their sole run was a disappointing 13th to Response in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).
The lacklustre run saw the horse, previously prepared by Jim Marconi and before that Mark Kavanagh, sold by connections at a tried horse sale in March this year.
That’s where Ryan scooped Rafaello up for $85,000, a nice price for a horse that had earned a tick off $500,000 in prize money to date.
“I think they sold him because he was becoming a handful to ride and get on the track, so that’s why we’re basing ourselves at Ballina and using the beach,” Ryan said.
“He’s been a dream to do anything with since we’ve started taking him to the beach.
“He’s a really happy horse.”
Despite the extended break from racing and the tough field of Stradbroke starters this year, Ryan believes Raffaello will race competitively in his first-up run.
“The anticipation was to use his fresh run for the right race,” Ryan explained.
“We were originally going to stay in Melbourne, but a couple of weeks ago when the better horses started going by the wayside we thought we might as well make the trip.”
Raffaello arrived in Queensland on Sunday to prepare for the Stradbroke and Ryan said the horse had settled into his sunshine state surroundings without worry.
“He’s going well, he’s always a good fresh horse,” he said.
“He won at Caulfield first-up (in August 2009) and then third in the Group 1 over 1400m (behind Turffontein in the 2009 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes), so it’s not out of the realms of possibility (for him to do well in the Stradbroke).
“We just have to see whether as a six-year-old stallion he still wants to do it or not.”
Champion female hoop Lisa Cropp has been booked to ride Raffaello in the Stradbroke, a boost for the horse’s chances after Cropp saluted aboard Glass Harmonium in the Eagle Farm Cup last Saturday.
With Cropp engaged and Raffaello experienced with the reverse way of going, Ryan warned sceptics not to rule him out of contention on Saturday.
“It’s mainly just keeping him happy and him wanting to do it,” he said.
With the final field released, Stradbroke Handicap barriers will be allocated later this morning.