Lightly-raced colt Tonopah can announce himself as a 2013 Queensland Derby contender with a strong performance in the Group 3 2013 Rough Habit Plate (2100m) on Saturday.
The American-bred, Sydney-based galloper will be having just the fifth start of his career and faces a steep rise in grade.
But trainer Craig Ritchie says he has earned his shot after breaking his maiden status with a 3 1/2 length thumping of his rivals at Kembla Grange late last month.
“Although he didn’t beat much at Kembla Grange last start he couldn’t have done much more and being a colt with his bloodlines I decided to bring him up here and have a go,” Ritchie told AAP.
Ritchie admits he still doesn’t know how good the son of Rock Hard Ten may be but is willing to find out.
“He’s definitely improved since his Kembla run and hopefully he can keep taking the next step,” he said.
“I like him a lot as a racehorse. He only does what he has to but he’s making good progress.”
Despite being lightly raced and six months behind his counterparts in development due to his northern hemphisphere breeding, Tonopah has been solid every time he has stepped on the track.
In his first preparation last winter he produced consecutive fourths and has returned this time with a runner-up finish and a win.
He is currently an $9 chance in the Rough Habit Plate, Kiwi raider Survived the short-priced favourite at $2.60.
Survived is chasing a fifth straight win in his Australian debut after taking out the Hawke’s Bay Gold Cup by 4 1/2 lengths at his last start.
Trainer John Bary said the in-form galloper travelled across well on Thursday and has done plenty of work in the right-handed direction to prepare for the hit-out.
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