When five-year-old gelding Bass Strait flopped in the Caulfield RSL Welfare Plate (1700m) late in September, finishing over 10 lengths off the winner Kenjorwood in ninth place, nobody would except to see his name among the field for the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot this weekend. What a wonder fresh connections can make.
Bass Strait’s loss at Caulfield followed four consecutive unplaced runs, a far cry from his three-year-old season that saw him competing against the best of his age group in such races as the Group 2 Australian Guineas (1600m) and Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m), in which he finished fourth.
This string of events led to leading Western Australian trainer Neville Parnham and bloodstock agent Mark Pilkington striking a deal for the five-year-old from trainers David Hayes & Tom Dabernig.
“Mark Pilkington had always liked the horse, having had involvement with David’s stable, and he was at Lindsay Park when it was mentioned that there’d been some interest to see if he was for sale and owners were considering it,” Parnham told Racing Victoria.
“We bought the horse thinking that he could do a nice job over here, but we thought it was a bit of a pipe-dream thinking that he was a Railway prospect.
“We were certainly going to give ourselves the option of running in it if we could, being a $1 million race and a Group 1, and here he is.”
In two short months Bass Strait turned his form around and is now set to battle it out in the $1 million Railway Stakes.
The 2014 Railway Stakes will be just the third start in Perth for the gelding who finished two lengths off the winner Balmont Girl in a strongly run Group 3 Asian Beau Stakes (1400m) before winning the Group 3 R.J. Peters Stakes (1500m) last Saturday, which sealed his Railway Stakes spot.
“Our first attempt with him we were just feeling our way but he ran a slashing race when he ran on and hit the line well,” Parnham said.
“I was able to have another fortnight with the horse just to get a feel of him and I think I worked him out a fair bit more and the horse duly saluted last Saturday, aided by a good ride by Chris (Parnham).”
Punters have enjoyed Bass Strait’s comeback story with many backing him to find success in the Railway Stakes on Saturday. His price has shortened from $16 to $14 at Ladbrokes.com.au over the past couple of days.
The gelding will get a good start in the race from barrier three Parnham’s apprentice jockey son Chris in the saddle for the third consecutive time. The trainer believes the draw is ideal, inside enough to help Bass Strait keep up with the dominant The Cleaner.
“He should get into a nice position and not be too far off them, which some of them may be,” Parnham said.
“Quite a lot of the expected chances in the race do race off pace and that might mean they’ve got a fair bit of ground to make up on The Cleaner.
“It’s a step up, but he’s improved off the back of his win last week and hopefully he can go there and win a bit of prizemoney.”
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