Neville Parnham is confident his returning five-year-old Checkpoint can race competitively first-up in Saturday’s Roma Cup 2014 at Belmont Park Racecourse in Perth.
The Snitzel gelding hasn’t raced since early November last year and has been sidelined since with a sesamoid bone injury.
Lightly-raced for their age due to a number of setbacks, Checkpoint has won five of their 14 starts to date.
Their latest campaign came on the back of a nine month, injury-enforced break and was cut short just two runs in.
Both of those runs at Ascot were eye-catching however with Checkpoint finishing under a length away in the minor placings.
First was a third to gun sprinter Barakey in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1200m) and then their second when beaten a nostril flare by Conservatorium in the Group 2 Lee Steere Stakes (1400m).
They then suffered an ill-timed injury and were forced to miss their run in the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) subsequently won by boom Brisbane hero Buffering.
They’re back again this weekend looking to make up for lost time going first-up in the $125,000 Group 3 Del Basso Smallgoods Roma Cup (1200m).
Checkpoint trialled ahead of their Roma Cup return at Belmont on Monday finishing sixth behind Military Secret over the 1000m when ridden by apprentice hoop Chris Parnham.
It’s now all systems go for the Roma Cup, and under vets’ instruction they will likely have just the two runs again this campaign.
“He took a piece off his sesamoid before the Winterbottom,” Parnham told The West Australian.
“He also did that the year before on his opposite leg.
“He’s lucky to even be racing. Because of his leg problems, vets have advised me to only give him a couple of starts each campaign.”
Following Saturday’s showdown the other race Parnham is eyeing for Checkpoint to see out their winter prep is predictably the $125,000 Group 3 Belmont Sprint (1400m) back at the track on May 31.
Parnham is happy with how they’re going ahead of the Cup clash, encouraged also by their excellent record at the track having run top two in all six of their Belmont starts.
“He’s going well and he’s very sound at the moment,” Parnham said.
“His summer carnival form was outstanding and he’s right up to that company.”
The 2014 Belmont Sprint will be the go-to race for most of the Roma Cup graduates including the Bruce Watkins and Gary Hitchcock co-trained Kerrific.
It is the latter connections are expecting the Blackfriars seven-year-old to thrive in with this weekend’s race a warm-up.
“I am hoping it rains because he has good wet-track form,” Watkins said.
“The Belmont Sprint is going to be better for him where it is a handicap and the 1400m is more his distance.”
A veteran of 44 starts, Kerrific was last seen running a below par 10th when beaten six lengths in the Listed Bunbury Stakes (1400m) back in early March.
They did enjoy a trial win at the same track on May 2 however and are after their first win since the Group 3 RJ Peters Stakes (1500m) at Ascot in mid-November last spring.
Kerrific’s regular rider Peter Hall is booked to ride Roma Cup rival Ranger, the Adam Durrant-trained fellow seven-year-old first-up following a second last to Ihstahymn in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) back in December.
Replacing Hall on Saturday is then Glenn Smith who rode them to victory in the Listed Grandstand Cup (1400m) last April.
Watkins and Hitchcock meanwhile have had to abort Belmont Sprint plans for another runner, Rose Of Choice, who won’t be ready to go until the end of the winter.
“Peter Hall was really impressed by her work,” Watkins said. “But she has had a setback and will have to go out for a couple of weeks.
“She should be back for those Listed races at Belmont starting in August.”
The four-year-old Choisir mare won the Listed Jungle Dawn Classic (1400m) during the summer and was last seen running second behind Elite Belle in the Listed La Trice Stakes (1800m) on New Year’s Day.
La Trice Stakes winner Elite Belle meanwhile is one of the likely Roma Cup favourites and will be ridden by the state’s premier hoop William Pike.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for the official Roma Cup 2014 field to be released tomorrow.
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