After just being nudged out of winning their first-up start of the spring last month, Drago is on track for a shot at the big time in the Golden Rose 2013 this weekend according to trainer Anthony Cummings.
All eyes will be on Rosehill Gardens on Saturday when a field of smart three-year-olds faces off in the $1 million Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes (1400m).
Golden Rose betting is currently led by 2013 Caulfield Guineas favourite Prince Harada ($3.80) who was luckless when interference saw them finish runner-up to fellow Rose fancy Fast ‘N’ Rocking in the Group 3 HDF McNeil Stakes (1200m) first-up at Caulfield on August 31.
Drago meanwhile is only a little further down the Golden Rose odds at $11, prices sure to firm when the final acceptances are taken on Wednesday.
A dual Group 1 performer during the autumn when fourth to Guelph in both the ATC Sires Produce and Champagne Stakes at Randwick in April, Drago has had just the one run this time in.
They resumed at Warwick Farm on August 24 and were far from disgraced when second behind War in the Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes (1300m).
A winner over 1800m at Rosehill back in May, Drago then is sure to be suited to the extra distance of the Rose this weekend.
For the Up And Coming Stakes Drago was reunited with hoop Peter Robl whose other ride on them was a sixth to Sidestep in the Group 2 Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) on debut back in March.
Robl will retain the ride for the Golden Rose this weekend and is hoping to go one better than their last outing having opted to stick with them over stablemate Cluster who will now be ridden by James McDonald.
Cummings’ Fastnet Rock colt Cluster was runner-up to Va Pensiero in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m) before Robl guided them to a fifth place behind the same horse in the Run To The Rose making for a tough decision when it came to his Rose ride.
“There is not that much between them and a good draw could be the difference,” he said.
“I’m just happy to have a very good ride in the race. It was never a real tough decision when you are picking between two horses like them.
“I just had to make it and get on with it. I’m either going to be right or wrong come Saturday.”
Robl’s main concern now is the likelihood of the Golden Rose field featuring a capacity 18 starters for the first time in history.
“If they ran 18 like they say they are going to – all I can say is good luck to everyone getting to that first turn,” Robl said.
“Ask Sidestep what happened last week [in the Run To The Rose]. He would still be having nightmares about it and that wasn’t grand-final day.
“There could be carnage because it will be a charge out of the gates to get a spot before the turn.”
There’s been plenty of other backlash over the bumper field, the previous record for which was 16 starters, from other jockeys and trainers too including Chris Waller who will saddle-up the third favourite Zoustar.
The Group 2 winning Northern Meteor colt, runner-up in the Group 1 JJ Atkins in the winter, resumed on August 31 when fourth to Va Pensiero in the Group 3 Run To The Rose (1200m) where they faced 13 rivals.
Waller now harbours some concerns over how they will go against 17 rivals under set weights conditions.
“Going from eight runners to 12 runners if fine, but going from 14 to 18, you really notice the difference,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“Handicaps, sure, they’re open races, but set-weight races you should be restricting it to the very best. You need a lot of luck in any race, you need luck at barrier draw, but in running you don’t want people with the best horse having bad luck.”
Zouster’s jockey Jim Cassidy agrees.
“We want good racing, not carnage,” he said.
“I think it’s too many. We only had 14 in the Run To The Rose the other day, and look what happened then (with all the interference).”
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