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After originally thinking his mount in Saturday’s Stradbroke Handicap 2014 Rebel Dane had drawn barrier 2, jockey Tommy Berry got a reality check realising he’d missed the two in front.
Gary Portelli’s California Dane four-year-old will jump from the outside barrier, coming into 18 with the emergencies out, in the $1.36 million Group 1 AAMI Stadbroke Handicap (1400m) on the weekend.
News of the bad gate was something the Sydney-based Portelli had to break to Berry via text after the in-form hoop got it wrong when barrier were drawn on Wednesday.
“Tommy actually thought we had barrier two,” Portelli told The Daily Telegraph.
“He texted me, but I texted him back and said, ‘stick another two in front’.”
While on paper the car park draw is a problem, history shows barrier 18 has produced the most Stradbroke Handicap winners since 1983 than any other gate with four champions starting out there.
Rebel Dane is out to become the next but is at an easing price to do so now paying $8.50 in the latest Stradbroke Handicap betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Portelli believes the horse capable of an upset, but also knows that it will be a genuine test for both Rebel Dane and the riding ability of Berry.
“This will test Tommy. I’ll tell him, ‘here’s the horse, now do your best’,” he said.
“(But) wherever he turns up, he seems to win.
“I thought this might be one of those moments where Tommy turns up and wins the Stradbroke.”
Stradbroke Handicap odds are led by smart filly Srikandi ($5) and the Phillip Stokes-trained Adelaide three-year-old Hucklebuck ($5.50) along with Doomben 10,000 champ Spirit Of Boom ($7.50).
Tony Gollan’s top local hope Spirit Of Boom is the heaviest weighted with 58kg while Rebel Dane is next in the weights with 56.5kg.
They come off a fourth in the Doomben 10,000 when beaten under three quarters of a length with Glen Boss in the saddle.
Boss has jumped off them for the Stradbroke however opting to ride Ciaron Maher’s Dubai three-year-old Srikandi on the 51kg minimum after partnering with her for her three straight wins during the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.
Portelli was quick to book Berry for his horse then, and the hoop is confident that they can overcome the obstacles of Saturday’s race including the step up to 1400m.
Rebel Dane boasts two wins and a second over the distance.
Their most recent run over it however was an unplaced fifth behind Hana’s Goal in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes at Randwick on April 26 before their 10,000 effort.
There’s also the fact Berry is on the horse for the first time, that he’s yet to ride at Eagle Farm and that he’s flying in from Hong Kong for the one-meeting raid.
“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened,” Berry said while still in Hong Kong earlier in the week.
“I flew to Hong Kong and rode Military Attack last year and won (the QE II Cup), I did the same thing in Singapore, and both Military Attack and Tropaois were difficult horses to ride.
“I guess you can say I do adapt to new tracks quickly. I’m a track walker, I’ll study the tracks I ride at, and I’ll study the horses I’m riding.”
Berry has a strong book of rides on Stradbroke Day too also including new favourite Cosmic Endeavour in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m), the fellow Gai Waterhouse-trained Almalad in the Group 1 JJ Atkins (1600m) and Elusive Runner who has the inside alley for the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m).
“I wasn’t too happy with the (Stradbroke) draw, but that’s racing,” Berry said.
“My Derby ride (Elusive Runner) drew well, so you have to take the good with the bad.
“All three of my Group 1 rides on Saturday I thought were even chances, I thought Rebel Dane was my best ride before the draw, but now I’d have to say it’s Elusive Runner.”
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