Top Ascot horseman Fred Kersley is confident his defending champion Ihtsahymn can return to better form thanks to a nice barrier draw for his attempt at back-to-back CB Cox Stakes wins on the weekend at home.
The four-year-old son of Ihtiram is one 14 gallopers making up the field for this year’s $250,000 Group 2 C.B. Cox Stakes (2100m) at Ascot Racecourse, a weight-for-age summer classic he won 12 months ago.
During a gun three-year-old season Ihtsahymn rose through the ranks quickly to win the Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) – Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) double before a half-length win over Kincaple in the Cox Stakes to earn him the title of reigning WA Horse of the Year.
He was equally as impressive during the autumn including his second to Respondent in the Group 2 WATC Derby (2400m) in April when stepped up over the mile and a half for the first time.
This spring – summer campaign however he has been unable to recapture that same crack 3YO form, something Kersley hopes can change this weekend.
“He’s clearly struggling to find his best form,” Kersley told The West Australian.
“We live in hope in this game.”
Ihtsahymn comes off two disappointing Group 1 runs over the past month when 10th to Elite Belle in the Railway Stakes and eighth behind Moriarty in the Kingston town Classic on December 6, the latter run starting to show a little improvement.
“His last run was reasonably good. He made up a lot of late ground,” Kersley said.
He gets the chance to atone in the CB Cox Stakes then when facing a similar field of rivals including Grant Williams’s Railway Stakes winner Elite Belle who is battling for top spot in the Ladbrokes.com.au markets with Balmont Girl.
Elite Belle, who ran third in the Kingston Town last time out, is drawn in barrier four for William Pike while Railway Stakes runner-up Balmont Girl jumps from gate eight.
In between these too is then Kersley’s hope Ihtsahymn in barrier six with Steven Parnham taking over for Paul Harvey who is engaged to ride former Sydney-trained Group 3 winner Strike The Stars who is now prepared locally by Dan Morton.
“His trackwork suggests he’ll run a good race and the barrier certainly does help,” Kersley said.
Parnham rode the galloper for three runs before the Kingston Town however and all through his three-year-old season including in the Group 1 last December but opted to partner Rommel in the Kingston Town.
Kersley is also hoping the step back up in distance, the CB Cox Stakes Ihtsahymn’s first look at further than 1800m since his Derby second, will aid his cause.
“He’s proven over ground and the 2100 should work in his favour,” he said.
“It’s just a question whether he can get back to his best.”
If successful, Ihtsahymn will be the first back-to-back CB Cox Stakes winner since Tropical Chief (1975-76).
All going well after Saturday’s run, Kersley also said the horse was likely to back-up on New Year’s Day in the $500,000 Group 1 Perth Cup (2400m) for which he pays $21 to win in the futures markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
“If he runs a good race he will,” Kersley said.
“We’d like to go to the Cup.”
Back Ihtsahymn this weekend and for an upset 2015 Perth Cup result online now at Ladbrokes.com.au and enjoy up to $250 in bonus bets to see out the season in style!