This Saturday Port Maquarie trainer Wayne Wilkes will saddle-up his progressive galloper King Utah who is set for a rematch with their last start conqueror Fiumicino in the Christmas Cup 2012 at Rosehill Racecourse.
Nine-year-old Zabeel gelding Fiumicino, a dual Group 1 winner, got the better of Bradbury’s Luck five-year-old King Utah last time out when the pair finished one-two, three quarters of a length separating them in the Listed ATC Cup (2200m) at Warwick Farm on December 1.
The pair will come face-to-face again this weekend when they run in the $100,000 Listed Christmas Cup (2400m), scheduled as Rosehill Race 6 at 4:20pm (AEST), where Wilkes will shoot for just his second stakes win as a trainer following the 2010 victory of Soiled in the Listed Tatt’s Members Cup (1600m) at Eagle Farm.
In the ATC Cup the Hawkes-trained Fiumicino broke a lengthy losing streak winning their first race since the 2009 The BMW when they carried 59kg to victory.
With five kilos less King Utah ran a good second after getting shut out on the straight when they were gearing up for their run in their first ever black type assignment and while they did suffer interference Wilkes knows the winner was deservedly so on the day.
“I think he (King Utah) would have finished a lot closer but I doubt whether he would have run the winner down, he (Fiumicino) was too good on the line,” Wilkes said.
“Had that race been a little bit further like it is on Saturday it probably would have helped him a lot more.”
Saturday sees them meet on the same weights again, Fiumicino the 59kg top-weight while King Utah is on the 54kg minimum, and Wilkes is hoping the quinella will be reversed this time round.
One thing he won’t be happy about however is the horse’s wide barrier 10 of 10 draw having said earlier in the week he was hoping for a good gate.
“I’d love to draw a good alley, and with that little bit of improvement I think he’s made since last start I reckon we can probably turn the tables,” Wilkes said on Tuesday.
Jockey Christian Reith replaces apprentice hoop Anthony Allen, aboard for the ATC Cup defeat, on Saturday too in a move that Wilkes also hopes will help his galloper get over the line first.
“The owners just wanted to put a senior jockey on. It’s nothing against Anthony, it’s just about going for a more experienced rider,” Wilkes said.
“Just trying to cover all bases.”
Also in King Utah’s favour is the step up from 2200m back to the 2400m, a distance they won over three starts ago at Warwick Farm.
“I think the 2400 metres will suit him better on Saturday,” Wilkes said.
“I think there’s a lot of upside with him still and he’s come through his last race 100 per cent.
“King Utah’s had two goes over 2400m for a win and a second now and I think he’ll even get a little bit further.”
Set for improvement on Saturday, the Christmas Cup and the rest of their summer campaign that is also likely to feature a run in the Group 3 Summer Cup (2400m) back at Rosehill on Boxing Day will go a long way as to determining whether King Utah is up for a big autumn preparation next year.
Wilkes has named some ambitious goals for the $8,000 bargain yearling buy including the $2.25 million Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill on April 6, and perhaps even the $500,000 Group 1 Sydney Cup over the two miles (3200m) at Royal Randwick three weeks later.
“He just seems to be getting better with age and if he keeps stepping up we might go for races like the BMW and Sydney Cup in the autumn,” Wilkes said.
“It (his summer campaign) will tell us whether we go for the big ones or not.”
Whether it is this weekend’s Christmas Cup or looking further ahead to the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival features, the best horse racing odds in Australia are all in one place – bookmaker.com.au.
Now is the time to join bookmaker.com.au too as they are giving away bonus bets valued up to $400 to new customers that deposit and use the code BONUSBET.