It is shaping-up as a huge year for Benjamin...
McLachlan has again engaged the services of top hoop Brad Rawiller to ride Phelan Ready when they line-up in the $175,000 Listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m) on Caloundra Cup Day.
One of the gun two-year-olds of 2009, Phelan Ready was being tipped as a turf genius after they won the coveted Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) that year by an easy two and a half lengths with Brad Rawiller aboard.
Next start they failed to produce the same elite level form when running a distant seventh behind Manhattan Rain in the Group 1 AJC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m), Phelan Ready checked badly near the 1000 metre mark, hitting the rail and being forced to complete the run while injured.
The horror Sires Produce Stakes event saw Phelan Ready sent for a spell to recuperate, McLachlan brining them back four months later for a stint at the autumn – spring features.
It was a campaign of mixed form and mixed messages from the galloper, Phelan Ready starting five times and finishing as close as second and as far away as 14th in their runs.
Their worst result that prep was when they beat home just one other rival in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) in August of 2009, after which they showed an amazing, if not confusing, form turnaround to run a close second behind Danleigh in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley four weeks later.
The 2009 Manikato result was the last time Phelan Ready had come close to winning a race until earlier this month.
A failed 2010 season, where the only sign of better times to come was a fourth to Beethog in the Group 3 Gold Coast Guineas (1200m) in May, and connections were starting to give up hope with their former Group 1 winner.
It was a decent start this year when Phelan Ready ran third to Captain Sonador in the Listed Goldmarket Handicap (1300m) at the Gold Coast in January, but with their next two runs again producing nothing of substance it was back to the paddock and back to the drawing books.
Four months later and Phelan Ready ran one of their best races since their nearly forgotten Golden Slipper triumph.
At Eagle Farm on June 4 the sprinter came within a length when second to Varenna Miss in the Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m), a brave effort after being forced to race wide from their double digit draw.
“His first-up run was super,” McLachlan said.
“He was three and four wide and in another two strides he wins.”
The QTC Cup run was enough to warrant a stint at the Brisbane Winter Carnival Group 1’s including the Doomben 10,000 and Stradbroke Handicap.
Not wanting to push the horse too far too soon, however, McLachlan decided to bypass the top levels in favour of targeting the Glasshouse, happy to wait until the spring to chase another Group 1 win with Phelan Ready.
“I also decided to bypass the Eye Liner and set him for this race,” he said.
The Listed Ipswich Eye Liner Stakes (1350m) ran on June 18 and was won by the Gerald Ryan-trained Adnocon for the second year in a row, with Gundy Son the runner-up followed by the fast-finishing third placegetter Drenalin.
All three Eye Liner Stakes placegetters are backing up in the Glasshouse Handicap on Saturday.
With jockey Shane Scriven, aboard Phelan Ready for the QTC Cup, suspended, Rawiller has taken the opportunity to join forces with the horse for the first time since October 2009.
“Unfortunately Shane Scriven, who rode him last start, is suspended so I rang Brad to see if he wanted to come up to ride him,” McLachlan said.
“I’m hoping Brad and the horse can click again.”
McLachlan is praying for a good run in the Glasshouse now that Phelan Ready seems to have overcome the niggling injuries that have plagued their recent preps.
“He’s injury-free this time which is different to his previous preps,” he said.
Making the task tricky on Saturday is the wide barrier 17 of 18 draw for Phelan Ready and their hefty 58kg weight allocation, making them the second heaviest-weighted runner behind $5 favourite and defending champion, the Robert Heathcote-trained Woorim (58.5kg).
Still, Phelan Ready is not without their admirers in the Glasshouse Handicap markets after their eye-catching QTC Cup effort and they sit at $12.
“He hasn’t raced for nearly a month but I’ve give him a soft trial since then,” McLachlan said.
The Sunshine Coast track at Caloundra was on Thursday rated a Slow (6), with more rain forecast ahead of Saturday, meaning the wider draw for Phelan Ready could actually work in their favour.
“I’d prefer him on a dray track but he has own on a slow track,” McLachlan said.
“I can’t see the track improving much but I don’t want it heavy.”
McLachlan admits it will be an emotional training achievement if Phelan Ready does claim an upset in the Glasshouse, as the race is an event his late father and former co-trainer of the horse Bruce always aspired to win.
Passing away in June of 2009, Bruce McLachlan enjoyed a decorated training career taking out no less than 16 Brisbane Trainer’s Premierships as well as a great many Group 1 races across Australia.
Still, amongst all that success, McLachlan never managed to prepare a Glasshouse Handicap winner.
“The Glasshouse was one of the few raced dad never won and it would be great to win it for him on my home track,” McLachlan said.
All going to plan with Phelan Ready and McLachlan will begin drafting a Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival campaign for them.
“If he goes well I’m going to send him to Melbourne for the spring along with Absalon and possibly Facile Tigre,” he said.
Mossman colt Absalon, a rising three-year-old, is undefeated having won both of their career starts this winter including the Listed Arello Stakes (1200m) at Doomben last start on June 13 making them an exciting prospect for the spring 3YO features.
“He’s a really good horse,” McLachlan said of Absalon.
“Not many can step up from a maiden to Listed grade at their next run and win.
“I think he’s got a big future. He should really relish longer distances.”
Meanwhile Facile Tigre will also race at Caloundra this Saturday in the $50,000 Summerveld Racing Stables Benchmark 89 Handicap (1000m).
Also due to be ridden by Brad Rawiller, the Catbird four-year-old has drawn well in barrier three and is second-up after running a solid third to Trusted Partner in the Listed Lightning Handicap (1000m) at Eagle Farm on June 11.
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