They may not be under double figures to win but connections of Toowoomba-based mare Secret Garden believe the four-year-old has what it takes to handle the class rise of this weekend’s Ipswich Cup 2013and give the favourites a run for their money.
Running as Race 8 at Ipswich Racecourse this Saturday, the $200,000 Listed Channel 7 Ipswich Cup (2150m) is shaping up as a top class showdown for 2013 with early betting led by Peter Moody’s 60kg topweight Voila Ici.
The imported stayer was a flash-home-third in the Group 2 Eagle Farm Cup (2200m) at the start of the month but gives a lot of weight away here and has barrier 19 (into 15 of 16 with emergencies out) to overcome.
One horse that gets in much better in the weights meanwhile is the Paul Nolan-trained Secret Garden on the 54kg minimum.
A progressive daughter of Stromberg Carlson, Secret Garden has won six of her 22 career starts so far but hasn’t race in black type company since May last year.
She showed good form when going up in distance when taken to the Gold Coast last autumn winning a Class 1 at home before progressing onto back-to-back 1800m features on the glitter strip.
Connections then ran her in her first stakes race and she was a nice second beaten only a long neck by Scorpio Queen in the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) thriving on a Heavy (8) track.
Next start however going up to 2000m and getting a much firmer Good (3) Doomben course saw her run a disappointing 13th to Invest in the Group 3 The Roses as a $20 outsider.
Things have steadily been improving since with Secret Garden running a number of nice metro runs, really relishing mud tracks when she gets them including her most recent victory over 2100m at Doomben in early March.
Last seen finishing two lengths away fourth to Planetarium in the Mitty’s Benchmark 90 Handicap (1818m) at Eagle Farm on June 1 she gets her chance to turn the tables in the Ipswich Cup facing a similar field.
The Gerald Ryan-trained Planetarium is the current $7 second favourite in Ipswich Cup betting trailing only Voila Ici ($3.50).
Other horses coming via the Mitty’s include runner-up Za Magic who is at $10 for Saturday and of course Secret Garden paying $12 for the rematch.
“Planetarium is the second favourite for the Cup and I thought we were a bit unlucky not to beat him (last start),” Nolan said.
“This time we meet him 1.5 kilograms better and if the market is right we’re probably not going to be too far away from them with even luck.”
Secret Garden has been to Ipswich three times before including her win there in February last year and Nolan is confident their racing style suits the track and her grittiness will get her home in the end.
“With 16 runners they should string out with plenty of pace on and typically in an Ipswich Cup everyone takes off at the 800 metres,” he said.
“I’d like to think they will start attacking each other from that point and we can be somewhere there tracking up behind them coming to the home turn.”
It is this plan of attack and the likely fast pace Nolan is hoping will see his mare overcome gate 15.
“Everyone says you won’t want to be on the fence if Ipswich is wet but we also don’t want to travel four wide the whole way,” he said.
“(Barrier) eight or nine would’ve been ideal but from 15 she’s either going to be caught wide or have to go an awfully long way back to get in.
“The only good thing is there does appear to be plenty of speed in the race which she’s been crying out for at her past three runs.”
Also in her favour is the likely soft track, though Nolan is one of the few wishing that more rain would fall to keep it at its current Heavy (10) rating after 27mm of rain lashed the course on Wednesday evening.
“I thought if it was dry the Ipswich Cup would be a bit beyond her but we’re lucky that we’ve struck a wet track,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to be bottomless but a slow track is still going to make the 2150 metres more like 2300 metres especially if the leaders go hard.”
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