Mornington trainer Pat Carey is hoping to see a single-figure gate beside the name Ethiopia when the Turnbull Stakes 2012 final field and barrier draw for Saturday’s Flemington feature is released today.
The $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) will be a very telling race for Carey’s Helenus four-year-old Ethiopia, their performance in the set weights plus penalties clash to help determine where the reigning Australian Derby winner heads this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Ethiopia took out the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) breaking their maiden status at start number four back in April.
The lightly-raced gelding then resumed racing at Moonee Valley on September 15 but ran a disappointing seventh to Happy Trails in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) after jumping from barrier 11 of 12.
Carey is hoping they will improve as they step up in distance this Saturday for the Turnbull, an inside draw also on his wish list.
“It’s taken a while for him to come out of winter but it looks to me like he’s caught up now,” Carey said.
“I can’t wait to see him at Flemington and I’d like him to draw a gate and see how he copes with racing inside horses. He’s never been inside a horse largely because of where he’s drawn so far in his races.
“I’ll also probably put winkers on him. He can be a bit of wanderer and I’ve always felt that winkers were a natural adjunct to his gear.
“He still needs to learn his trade. Bizarrely, for a Derby winner, he’s still grossly inexperienced.”
Saturday will be the first time Ethiopia sees the famous Flemington racecourse with Carey opting not to give them a trial gallop at the track this week.
“We thought about heading there on Tuesday but in the end I decided there was nothing much to gain, especially as he’d had to have worked alone,” Carey said.
“I could do enough with him here (Mornington) and felt that a return float trip wasn’t worth the risk. Part of the art of training is keeping your horse safe and sound.”
It is shaping up as a beauty of a Turnbull this year with the main attractions being defending champ December Draw, reigning Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed and Ethiopia’s last-start conqueror Happy Trails.
The 2012 Caulfield Cup on October 20 is not an option for Ethiopia but Carey said that if he steps up his game in the Turnbull then the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 27 would be considered.
“The Turnbull is the point in the spring where you can properly determine the path you take,” he said.
“Naturally you might progress to the Caulfield Cup or the Cox Plate. I think it’s primarily the latter and he’s not in the Caulfield Cup so we’ve avoided that temptation.”
Ethiopia is currently a $51 outsider in the Cox Plate odds at bookmaker.com.au that are firmly led by the undefeated Pierro ($3.70).
If not the Cox Plate, Carey expressed his interest in taking Ethiopia to the Melbourne Cup Carnival on Victoria Derby Day for the $1 million Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) before preparing them for next year’s autumn season where they would target the 2013 Australian Cup and The BMW 2013.
“That’s the way I’d lean but all options are open and we will confirm our direction after the Turnbull,” he said.
Carey also hasn’t completely ruled out the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November but admitted his maturing stayer could still be a year off that assignment.
“I’m sure he’s a natural stayer, one of the most natural stayers I’ve seen,” Carey said.
“If ever I’ve seen a horse who would run two miles then it’s him but in terms of the Melbourne Cup it’s still a case of this year or next.
“If in the meantime he wins the type of races which would see him weighted out of next year’s Cup then I’d happily take them.”
Stay tuned for the Turnbull Stakes field to be released shortly.
While you’re waiting for the weekend’s acceptances to be released why not head to bookmaker.com.au and sign-up with Australia’s leading online bookmaker.
It takes just a few minutes to open a bookmaker.com.au account and when you do make sure you take advantage of their $400 bonus bet offer by making a deposit and having it matched by quoting the code BONUSBET!