Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse’s decision to bring her smart four-year-old Ecuador back to a mile for Saturday’s 2013 Epsom Handicap was a surprise move but the right decision according to stable hoop Tommy Berry.
Berry will retain his association with the High Chaparral gelding on the weekend when Ecuador drops back from their last start over 1900m to take on a class field of gallopers in the $500,000 Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
The in-form jockey has ridden the horse for three of their four runs this time in including their last two on the trot.
After a nice four length win over 1550m at Canterbury on September 4 when ridden by James McDonald, Berry jumped back on Ecuador for another big win this time by three lengths over the 1800m at Rosehill just 10 days later.
They were also very competitive when carrying a hefty 60kg to finish a close second behind Multilateral in a Benchmark 80 over 1900 just last Saturday.
That run indicated to Berry that Waterhouse would back Ecuador up this weekend in the $400,000 Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) where they would be stepped up to a mile and a half with just 52kg.
However Waterhouse has since confirmed she won’t be accepting for The Metropolitan where a field full of spring cup fancies will face off, and will instead test the horse’s sharpness over the mile in the Epsom.
“She likes to keep me on my toes,” Berry said to AAP of his boss’s decision.
Ecuador, also on the 52kg minimum there, is one of the top fancies for the race too paying around $10 in the pre-field markets.
The only horses above them in Epsom betting before the release of final acceptances this morning are the Guy Walter-trained duo of Toydini ($4.40) and Streama ($7.50), and the Chris Waller-trained Boban – all three last-start winners.
Waterhouse will also be represented in the Epsom Handicap field this year by class More Than Ready four-year-old Ashokan and consistent 2000m performer Spurtonic.
Ecuador running in the Epsom also gives Berry a unique opportunity to secure a Group 1 Epsom Handicap Day double for the second year on the trot as he also has a separate ride in The Metropolitan.
Berry will ride Waterhouse’s last start Colin Stephen Quality winner Julienas in the day’s other elite level, the Cape Cross seven-year-old third favourite in the markets behind Prince Cheri and Moriarty.
“It’s not an overly strong field this year so he gets his chance,” Berry said of Julienas.
Twelve months ago he completed the Epsom – Metropolitan double with Fat Al and Glencadam Gold respectively which gave Waterhouse her seventh Epsom trophy and eight Metropolitan victory.
“If I can do that again I will be a happy jockey,” Berry said.
“Gai’s horses are always primed for this time of the year.
“Going into Group 1 racing, who else would you want to be riding for?”
Stay tuned to Races.com.au to view the official Epsom Handicap final field due out shortly.
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