Top hoop Michael Rodd has the chance to snare a rare riding double this week with prize mounts in both of Grafton’s XXXX Gold July Carnival showcase races.
First up on Wednesday Rodd will be aboard Con Karakatsanis’ in-form warhorse and the punters’ favourite Black Piranha in the $130,000 Listed Ramornie Handicap (1200m).
He will return the next day in the saddle of another favourite, Rodd to partner with the Bryan Guy-trained Shuffle The Cash in Thursday’s $150,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m).
A rising eight-year-old, Clan gelding Black Piranha has drawn well mid-field in barrier 7 of 13 for the Ramornie Handicap tomorrow and the dual Stradbroke Handicap winner opened as the $4 favourite.
Black Piranha gave the Grafton race fans a glimpse of what was to come with a powerful exhibition galloper on Sunday, a shiny coat and plenty of speed over the final 200 metres showing the Ramornie top elect was ready for tomorrow’s clash.
“The old boy looks a million dollars,” Karakatsanis said.
“He’s nice and fresh, just the way I want him.
“Matthew (Bennett) clicked him up the last furlong.
“That’s all I wanted, something to clean out his wind pipe.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
Black Piranha faces a tough test in the Ramornie, having to set a modern day weight carrying record to succeed having been allocated 61kg.
Despite the hefty weight and the fact the veteran has never won over 1200 metres, Karaktsanis’ father Tony is convinced the horse has what it takes to defy history and win.
Tony revealed Black Piranha had come through his last-start eighth to Sincero in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) well, putting on “seven or eight kilos”.
“And his blood is the best it’s ever been,” he said.
Bennett was also impressed with Black Piranha’s work on the weekend, cheekily suggesting that if Rodd fell sick he would happily take the Ramornie ride.
“Hopefully Michael (Rodd) gets sick so I can ride him,” Bennett half-joked.
“He felt beautiful.
“The good ones feel different.
“The closer he got to the winning post, the faster he wanted to go.
“Wish I was riding him.”
Rodd also picked up an eleventh-hour booking for Shuffle The Cash in the 2011 Grafton Cup, the Gold Coast-trained six-year-old the surprise favourite for the black-type feature.
After winning the Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2200m) at Doomben on May 28, Shuffle The Cash ran a disappointing fifth to the Gai Waterhouse-trained Tullamore in the Group 2 Brisbane Cup (2400m) on June 11 at Eagle Farm.
Last start the gallant grey returned to form, narrowly defeated in the final stride by Ironstein in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup (2200m) on June 25.
For Rodd to salute aboard both Grafton Carnival favourites over the next two days, he would become the first jockey since Geoff Challen in 1976 to win the Ramornie Handicap – Grafton Cup double in the same year.
Challen won the Ramornie on Swiftly Ann while Ontonic gave him the 1976 Grafton Cup win.