Owner of the Darren Weir-trained mare Culminate, Ultra Tune boss Sean Buckley, said he would be happy to see veteran champion Black Piranha rewrite the Stradbroke Handicap history books on Saturday and record his third win in the feature if his runner couldn’t get over the line first.
Seven-year-old Culminate is one of the capacity field of 18 starters plus five emergencies accepted for this year’s $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m), and Buckley believes she still has what it takes to give two-time winner Black Piranha a run for his money at Eagle Farm this weekend.
Saturday will be the daughter of Elnadim’s second chance at Stradbroke glory, Culminate having run sixth to Black Piranha in the race 12 months ago beaten less than two lengths before going on to run fourth to Melito in the Group 1 Winter Stakes (1400m).
Culminate hasn’t been in the winner’s stall since her half-length victory over Jersey Lily in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last October, but showed good form in her most recent run.
At her fourth start this year, Culminate finished within two lengths when fourth behind Hurtle Myrtle in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m) last Saturday, the Ballarat-based galloper showing her connections she was ready for a shot at the Straddie.
“Culminate finished sixth in last year’s Stradbroke and I think she’s in the top five chances this year,” Buckley said.
Despite her smart run last weekend over the Stradbroke track and distance, Culminate is a $41 roughie in the markets for this weekend having drawn awkwardly in barrier 12.
A big winner in the Stradbroke barrier draw, on the other hand, was Con Karakatsanis’ rising eight-year-old Black Piranha who will attempt an unprecedented hat-trick in the classic from barrier three.
His ideal draw and commanding record in the Stradbroke has seen Black Piranha firm into the $6 second favourite in the markets behind last-start Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded who is the easing $5.50 top elect after drawing wide with gate 17.
Buckley said if Culminate wasn’t up to the task on Saturday, a win by Black Piranha would be the Stradbroke Handicap result he would most like to see.
“I’m expecting her (Culminate) to run very well but if she can’t win I’d like to see Black Piranha do it again,” he said.
Buckley has a nice association with Black Piranha having purchased his dam, Distinctly North mare Jazztrack, last year.
“I bought Black Piranha’s mother just before he won his second Stradbroke,” Buckley confirmed.
In Culminate’s favour on Saturday, however, is her nice drop back in weight from the 5k.5kg she has carried in her three most recent runs to a very manageable 52kg for the Stradbroke with 12-time Group 1 winning Kiwi jockey Michael Walker engaged for the ride.
Walker will be vying for his first elite level win in Australia since he rode Danestorm to victory in the 2004 Brisbane Cup back when the race was a Group 1 feature.