Con Karakatsanis’ rising eight-year-old galloper Black Piranha will vie for an unprecedented third successive Stradbroke Handicap win this Saturday, with more and more race fans jumping on the Clang gelding’s bandwagon after yesterday’s barrier draw.
Of the four top elects in the early $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) markets, Black Piranha was the only horse to draw a single-digit gate for the Eagle Farm feature and Karakatsanis is hopeful this will be the key to entering the history books.
“He’s drawn well and on form,” Karakatsanis said.
Black Piranha will now attempt a Stradbroke treble from barrier three, the dual defending champ firming into the $6.50 second elect behind Peter Snowden’s classy mare Beaded ($6).
“(Barrier three is) just what we wanted, that means he doesn’t have to go right back to last to find cover,” Karakatsanis said.
“He should be able to get a nice run now, back off what looks a hot speed.”
With the five Straddie emergencies not gaining a start, Black Piranha will move into barrier two.
The odds may have firmed, but history suggests what Black Piranha is about to endeavour cannot be achieved.
No horse in the 121 year history of Queensland’s richest race has ever won three Stradbrokes.
The closest to this incredible feat was triple Doomben Cup conqueror Rough Habit who won the classic Cup in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
Winner of the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) last start, Beaded suffered an early blow for her second efforts to become a Stradbroke Handicap winner drawing barrier 17 for Saturday.
Twelve months ago Lonhro mare Beaded came up with the same disaster draw for her first Stradbroke attempt, and after being taken out wide to lead, she finished a game fourth to Black Piranha.
That was Black Piranha’s second Stradbroke Handicap victory, and with his main dangers with work to do from the far outside, things look in the champion’s favour for a third.
“The other two (Beaded and Love Conquers All) have some work to do off their barriers to get over into a reasonable position, so that’s an added bonus,” Karakatsanis said.
Last year Black Piranha and jockey Nash Rawiller jumped from barrier 12, the horse carting 55.5kg to victory.
The year before, Black Piranha scored their first elite level victory in the 2009 Stradbroke Handicap, Tye Angland having ridden the sprinter to victory from barrier four.
On Saturday, Black Piranha will be ridden by Hugh Bowman as the 57kg topweight of the Stradbroke field.
“He’s got the best rider going around in Hugh Bowman,” Karakatsanis said with confidence.
For his two previously successful Stradbroke campaigns, Black Piranha had his final lead-up run in the Doomben 10,000, before which his preparations also included the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick.
In 2009 he finished a close second to champion Apache Cat in the Doomben 10,000, while last year’s Stradbroke win came on the back of a fourth to the late, great mare Hot Danish.
“The last two years I brought Black Piranha here he came through the Doncaster Handicap, but this year we decided to completely miss it,” Karakatsanis revealed.
The Doncaster was bypassed this year Karakatsanis said because of the fatigue Black Piranha suffered after his Perth campaign last summer.
The gallant seven-year-old travelled to WA where he tackled two Group 1 features at Ascot, Black Piranha finishing 12th to Gathering in the Railway Stakes and ninth behind Playing God in the Kingston Town Classic.
“I should never have taken him to Perth because he probably hand enough at the end of Melbourne,” Karakatsanis admitted.
“I thought if he was three-quarters right I could get away with it, but he flew straight into that heatwave and he lost 20kg from his arrival to his first run.
“He was so far behind the eight ball and then having to carry big weights, it was too much.
“He was that ill from the runs and travelling when he landed in Melbourne, I couldn’t float him up to Sydney (for the Doncaster in April).”
The old warhorse, however, fought back and is now fit and ready for a Straddie hat-trick according to his trainer.
“He is well, looks great and he is back to nearly his best,” Karakatsanis assured.
“You do worry after the hiccup he had as an older horse if they come back, but he is too tough.”
A fortnight ago, Black Piranha finished less than a length away third to Beaded in the 2011 Doomben 10,000 in a promising Stradbroke trial that suggested to his trainer that a fairy-tale was about to become reality.
“Any race I put him in I’m confident,” Karakatsanis said of his stable star.
“Fitness-wise he’s at his peak at his third run in.
“My bloke is just coming right while some of the others are at the end of their campaigns.”