Topweight for Wednesday’s 2014 Ramornie Handicap at Grafton Racecourse, the Gordon Yorke-trained Hidden Warrior is still in need of a jockey for New South Wale’s richest country sprint.
The Coffs Harbour-based Yorke originally had Brisbane’s Timothy Bell booked for the ride on his Hidden Dragon four-year-old in this week’s $150,000 Listed Crowe Horwath Ramornie Handicap (1200m).
However with Bell right on the cusp of winning the Brisbane jockey’s premiership for the season, currently just one win behind Michael Cahill, he’s opted to stay at home this week.
That leaves Yorke without a rider for Hidden Warrior who carries 59kg from barrier two in the 13-horse Ramornie Handicap field.
“I had him booked for the Ramornie but he rang up last week and said he is going to stay in Brisbane,” Yorke told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“It left me without a jockey and as all the bookings are done a couple of weeks in advance, I can’t find anyone.
“When I got [Hidden Warrior] I thought this was the race for him and it has been a plan to get here, but now I just need to find a rider. I think he can run a race, with some luck.”
Hidden Warrior’s weight allocation though is a hefty one and one that their trainer is pretty disappointed in.
The gelding has had just the one run this time in when resuming off a five month let-up at Randwick in the Listed June Stakes (1100m).
They finished a credible fourth that day on a Heavy (8) track when ridden by Josh Parr behind winner Avoid Lightning.
In the June Stakes Hidden Warrior carried 58kg, and their even heavier weight for the Ramornie is more based on their earlier career form than that of the past 12 months.
Having won just the one race in the past year when prepared by Paul Perry, Hidden Warrior had their last run for their previous trainer in early January before being transferred from Newcastle with soundness issues.
They’ve since worked through those and Yorke is happy with their progress.
“I have a couple of horses for the owners and sort out a few problems with them,” he said.
On debut as a juvenile in October 2011 they came within a long neck of superstar colt Pierro in the Listed NSW Thoroughbred Breeders Plate (1000m), and ran second two months later in the Wyong 2YO Magic Millions Classic.
A Group 3 winner the following October at Moonee Valley Hidden Warrior failed when stepped up to Group 1 company at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival when 11th to Nechita in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.
It seems to Yorke then they are still being penalised for their three-year-old form and promise that they have never really been able to live up to.
“If you look at the weights, he has more weight than horses that have won black type this year, and he hasn’t won since last November,” Yorke said.
“He has paid for being a good horse as a three-year-old, like many of do.
“He was runner-up to Pierro in the Breeders and those sorts runs hurt you later on under the system.
“He was well performed as a young horse but since I have had him I have formed the opinion that his best is ahead of him.”
He’s hoping that changes and they handle the weight in the Ramornie Handicap taking on a top field of rivals.
“I think the four-year-old year is the hardest for all horses because it is when they stop growing and get their last set of teeth,” Yorke said.
“They are also force to take all comers, instead of racing their own age. It is hard enough without carrying penalties from wins early on.”
Among the major Ramornie Handicap dangers this year are Rodney Northam’s last start Group 3 WJ Healy Stakes winner in Brisbane Big Money on the rails in barrier one and Mr Favulous out wide in 12 who ran second in the Ascot Handicap at Eagle Farm last Saturday.
If they show progression over the coming months, Yorke is looking at stepping them up over more distance later on indicating that they should eventually handle up to a mile.
“He is relaxing and there is a mile race at Coffs next month that will suit and then we can put him away and I’m sure he will come back better,” Yorke said.
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