Danachenka gelding Spechenka, prepared by Ben Ahrens, won their first black-type back on Boxing Day last year when finishing one and a half lengths clear of Strike One in the Summer Cup (2400m) at Randwick.
Resuming in late May, the five-year-old ran an eye-catching second to Musashi Of Mieko in a 1625m Handicap first-up at Toowoomba.
Last Saturday, however, Spechenka left a lot to be desired when they managed to beat home just one other runner finishing 15th to Willy Jimmy in the Listed Strawberry Road Handicap (1600m) at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
“We are a little disappointed with his run on the weekend, but it wasn’t unexpected considering how the race was run or the conditions of the race,” Ahrens said of the Strawberry Road Handicap.
“It was the run he had to have before he went into the Cup.”
A winter win could still be on the cards for the horse, however, connections hopeful Spechenka can bring some stiff competition to the likes of Robert Heathcote’s dual winner Our Lukas and Kiwi mare Arcenciel when they line-up in the $200,000 Listed Ipswich Cup (2150m) this weekend.
Due to be ridden by Ryan Wiggins, Spechenka is drawn in barrier 10 for this year’s Ipswich Cup, which will be their first look at the track.
Ahrens believes that stepping back up to their preferred staying distance and with a bit of luck in the run, his $16 outsider Spechenka has the ability to claim an upset Ipswich Cup win.
The only concern for Ahrens going into Saturday’s race is Spechenka being just third-up for the season, the trainer saying the galloper traditionally prefers a little bit more preparation.
“Normally we’ve had a lot more runs under his belt and we’ve been a lot more confident with where he has been with his fitness,” Ahrens admitted.
“This time in he has done a lot of ground work and he has been working on the track as though he is ready for that sort of run.”
The lead-up to the Ipswich Cup run hasn’t been ideal for Spechenka’s whose work has been marred by a number of minor setbacks since his December win.
“When we’ve been ready to nominate him for races he has had little setbacks,” Ahrens said.
“He hasn’t missed a lot of work, he has just missed the runs when he has needed to have them.
“He had a few little injuries.
“Initially he just kicked his leg and had a bit of filling in one of his legs and that meant he missed his original first and second up runs.
“He twisted a fetlock early on in his campaign as well which delayed things more.
“He then got kicked by a workmate while he was working one morning which made him miss another run.
“They weren’t huge issues but they just happened at the wrong time and caused him to miss runs.
“Hopefully he is over those now, we can press ahead and get to the races.”
Considering the horse has suffered from an interrupted preparation this season, Ahrens is relatively happy with where Spechenka is at ahead of his Ipswich Cup berth.
“I’m not all that disappointed with where he is at within himself, we just lack that little bit of confidence going in knowing that it is third up but there is not much we could have done anyway,” he said.
“Everything seems to be alright with him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he won on Saturday.
“I just can’t go in there with any confidence as I am just not sure where we are at with the horse.”
Win or lose in the Ipswich Cup, Ahrens is looking forwards for Spechenka’s campaign starting with the $200,000 Caloundra Cup (2400m) on Saturday July 2.
“Most likely after the Ipswich Cup we will head to the Caloundra Cup,” he said.
“Possibly then the Queensland Cup or even the Grafton Cup is still in the mix as well.”
With each run Ahrens is sure to gain more confidence with Spechenka than he has for the Ipswich Cup, the galloper always having shown big improvement further into his previous campaigns.
“His second up form has always been very ordinary, his third up form hasn’t been a great deal better,” Ahrens said.
“Thereafter he normally fires and holds his form pretty well.
“If he doesn’t fire on the weekend I wouldn’t be too disappointed as he would have that extra run under his belt going into the Caloundra Cup.
“I still expect him to be reasonably competitive on Saturday.
“Early on for the (Queensland) Winter Carnival we were hoping for the Brisbane Cup however once we had to reassess and make different plans we then aimed at the Caloundra Cup instead.
“We’ve still got the horse and he is sound and should be hitting his peak soon in time for the Caloundra Cup.”
As for a Spring Carnival campaign, Ahrens said that Spechenka would have to show tremendous improvement and be in career best form to warrant consideration for the 2011 Caulfield and Melbourne Cup aspirations the horse was being piqued to have after their Summer Cup win.
“He would have to show us a little bit in these next few starts to warrant aiming him towards the spring,” Ahrens said.
“If that occurs and he does run well it would just be a case of giving him a short let up and then pressing ahead to the spring.”