Viking’s Legendary Winter Stakes Venture

He may not have been in the winner’s circle since September 2009, but Viking Legend is back at Rosehill this Saturday attempting to break the drought in the $100,000 Listed Winter Stakes (1500m).

Now prepared by Ross Simpson and Tracey Barnes at Warwick Farm, Elvstroem four-year-old Viking Legend was originally trained by Gai Waterhouse before a tendon injury at the end of last year saw their career put on hold.

Under Waterhouse’s training, Viking Legend started 13 times for two wins and seven minor placings.

Their biggest turf triumph came in the Listed Schweppes Dulcify (1800m) at Randwick in the spring of 2009, which has also turned out to be their most recent win.

Viking Legend showed plenty of promise with a handful of Group placings including two at elite level when third to Monaco Consul in both the 2009 Spring Champion Stakes and AAMI Victoria Derby.

Last autumn Waterhouse set Viking Legend up for another stint at Group 1 glory, the gallant galloper’s campaign culminating with a narrow second behind Shoot Out in last year’s Randwick Guineas.

Following that run, Viking Legend spent over a year on the sidelines due to injury, during which they were transferred to Simpson and Barnes.

Resuming on June 11 at Randwick, Viking Legend finished an eye-catching one length away fifth behind subsequent Takeover Target Stakes winner Title in a 1400m handicap, which was also their first run since being gelded.

Most recently they were well defeated in the Listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m) at Caloundra, failing to come within nine lengths of Robert Heathcote’s winner Woorim.

“The run in Queensland was probably a bit my fault,” co-trainer Simpson explained.

“I told Chris (O’Brien, jockey) that I expected him to go forward but the race didn’t pan out, they nearly broke the race record on a slow track.”

On Saturday Viking Legend will get their chance to improve and establish their credentials for the upcoming spring carnivals.

To be ridden by Jeff Penza for the first time in the Winter Stakes, Viking Legend has suffered an early blow drawing barrier 10 of 12 as they attempt to regain their previous form.

“The wide gate doesn’t worry me,” Simpson said.

Facing off against the likes of veteran galloper Sniper’s Bullet, the Peter Snowden-trained Scarf and Civic Stakes runner-up Madibagold, Viking Legend faces a tough test but connections remain confident they will bounce back.

“Tracey Bartley’s horse (Sniper’s Bullet) has drawn inside us and he should go forward so if we can go with him it will give us a cart across,” Simpson said when discussing riding tactics for Saturday.

“But the instructions will be to ride him where he’s comfortable.”

Despite Viking Legend having performed at their best when racing over the mile or further, Simpson believes they can still be competitive over the Winter Stakes distance of 1500 metres this weekend.

“I wouldn’t write him off on Saturday, he’s still in with a big chance,” Simpson said.

“But he’ll be a lot better once he gets to 1800 or 2000 metres.”

Following the Winter Stakes, Simpson indicated that the Premier’s Cup Prelude (1800m) at Rosehill on August 13 and the $100,000 Listed Premier’s Cup (1800m) the following fortnight would be the two most immediate targets for Viking Legend.

He also hoped to see enough development to continue onto some of the richer races of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, including even the iconic 2011 Caulfield Cup.

“Some of his owners, their main aim is the Caulfield Cup, but whether he gets 2400 metres or not, I’m not sure,” Simpson said.

“He got it as a three-year-old but that was against other three-year-olds.

“We might run him in the Metropolitan here before Melbourne and that will tell me whether he stays.

“It’s an open book at the moment.”

One of the biggest events of the spring, the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) will take place this year on October 15, while the $400,000 Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) is set to run at Randwick on October 2 during the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival.