Former Melbourne Cup winning hoop Chris Munce has been booked by Ballarat trainer Robert Smerdon to ride his veteran galloper Persian Star in this weekend’s Queensland Cup, the breeding barn-bound mare making her swansong race appearance.
One of the final feature races of the season, the $150,000 Listed Queensland Cup (3200m) is the headline Eagle Farm event on Saturday and Shot Of Thunder six-year-old Persian Star is one of 20 nominations for this year’s edition of the two-mile showdown.
A winner of just seven of her 48 career starts, Persian Star will be out on Saturday to break a 16-race drought and head into retirement on a high note.
“She’s been a very good mare and has won a black-type,” Smerdon said of the mare that was transferred to him from fellow Victorian trainer Glen Hancock three years ago.
“I got her as a three-year-old off Glen Hancock after he broke his back in a fall while breaking in a horse.”
Persian Star became a stakes winner at Flemington in May last year with her win in the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (3200m), adding to her value as a broodmare, but hasn’t been seen in a winner’s stall since.
She boasts multiple Group placings including her game third to Moudre in the Group 3 Queen’s Cup (2600m) on Emirates Stakes Day 2010, but so far this year Persian Star has failed to record an eighth career triumph.
There was one very close call at Flemington back on May 21 this year when Persian Star came within a nose of subsequent Ipswich Cup winner and Caloundra Cup runner-up Gold In Dubai in the Peter Rowland Catering Handicap (2000m).
At her four runs since, however, Persian Star hasn’t finished better than fifth.
Her last three starts have all been during the Brisbane Winter Carnival at Group level.
The mare finished eight lengths away fifth to star import Glass Harmonium in the weight-for-age Group 2 Eagle Farm Cup (2200m) on June 4 before finishing five and a half lengths away eighth to Tullamore, who was ridden by now five-time Brisbane Cup winning hoop Munce, in the Group 2 Brisbane Cup (2400m) on June 11.
“She wasn’t suited at weight-for-age in her first run (the Eagle Farm Cup) then she ran okay in the Brisbane Cup,” Smerdon said.
Persian Star’s most recent run leading up to the Queensland Cup was a seventh place finish behind Ironstein in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup (2200m) at Eagle Farm on June 25.
“I had to drop her back in distance which wasn’t ideal in the Tatt’s Cup but she still ran a reasonable race,” Smerdon noted.
Stepping back up to 3200 metres with Munce in the mount for the first time, however, brings Persian Star right into Queensland Cup contention according to her connections.
“Hopefully she’ll run better in her last run in the Queensland Cup as it’s a step down for her,” said Smerdon.
Michael Walker had the ride aboard Persian Star in both the Brisbane and Tatt’s Cups, and after hearing his assessment of the rides, Smerdon has made the decision to add blinkers to her gear on Saturday.
“I’m putting blinkers on Persian Star on the advice of her last rider, Michael Walker,” Smerdon confirmed.
“I’ve had her since she came into my stable as a three-year-old and I don’t recall her ever wearing blinkers before.
“Michael thought the blinkers would be a good idea as he didn’t think she was concentrating so hopefully they’ll help her switch on more.”