Despite the world-class sprinters down under this season, New Zealand trainer Ken Kelso is still keen to take them on and target the TJ Smith Stakes 2015 in Sydney with his smart mare Bounding.
The Matamata-based horseman, who trains in partnership with his wife Bev, named the lucrative $2.5 Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on April 4 as the big Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival feature he would most like to set his daughter of Lonhro for.
“I think she’s basically a sprinter,” he told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday morning.
“So we’ll throw a nomination in for the TJ Smith.”
The four-year-old has won seven of her 14 starts to date for a tidy $516,758 in prize money so far, a figure Kelso is hoping she can add to with some Aussie feature race success this time in.
Back in NZ she is a dual Group 1 runner-up and also won last year’s Group 1 Railway Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie, a title she was unable to defend due to a quarter-crack in her hoof this year.
Bounding then had a one-hit raid on last year’s Sydney Autumn Carnival with a super run in the Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes (1200m) in April.
She controlled the pace of the race after being fast out of the gates up until the 150m mark when she was just overhauled late by Sidestep to finish a neck away second.
She returned down under after five and a half months on the sidelines with three runs for two seconds and a last that was far better than it looked on paper.
Her first Melbourne run was a second to the still undefeated Hawkes-trained Chautauqua in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) before she stepped up to elite level company at Moonee Valley in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m).
That famous edition of the sprint saw a blanket finish with only two and a half lengths separating last over the line Bounding (12th), who was caught three wide the entire trip, and the winner Lankan Rupee.
“She certainly didn’t disgrace herself there,” Kelso said.
“It does say last in the book but there was only two point something lengths in it.
“She got into a bit of trouble and it was her first look around Moonee Valley so it’s not as bad as it looked.”
She then returned to Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival for another second this time behind Vain Queen in the Group 3 G.H. Mumm Stakes (1100m).
Kelso is pleased with how she pulled up after her Melbourne Spring Carnival campaign and said she is set to return to full work next week before a trial at home.
“After Melbourne she came back and had a spell (in New Zealand),” he said.
“We wanted to go to the Railway again which she won last year but she got a quarter crack and didn’t get there.
“She starts work next week so, all going well, we’ll look to come back to Sydney in the autumn.”
Depending on how she trials, plans are most likely to send her straight to Sydney with few options left at home in New Zealand for her because of her high rating there.
“We’ll trial here and we’ll see how she trials,” he said.
“From there it is pretty limited what she can run in here.
“With her rating she’ll get a hell of a lot of weight and there’s not a lot of races you can target over here.
“So she’ll probably have a trial here and then we might come over there and step out straight away.”
First-up options include the $400,000 Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Royal Randwick on March 7 or the $150,000 Group 3 Wenona Girl Handicap (1200m) against the mares at the same meeting.
“Something like the Challenge Stakes on the seventh of March or there’s another one on the same day, the mares’ race, the Wenona Girl Handicap, a race like that,” Kelso confirmed.
Then, all going well, Kelso could be tempted to tackle superstars including Lankan Rupee, Terravista and Chautauqua in the TJ Smith Stakes.
“The sprinters are probably the best they’ve been for donkey’s years, they’re world class the Australian sprinters,” Kelso admitted.
“They’re pretty good those sprinters over there at the moment.”
If not the TJ Smith Stakes though Kelso said there were “plenty of other races” for Bounding.
“The Sapphire Stakes…and a few other races are there so we’ll just see how she comes up in the autumn and we’ll just pick a path form there,” he said.
The $300,000 Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) runs at Randwick on Sydney Cup Day, April 11.
Kelso also said it would be hard to get her regular rider Mark Du Plessis off her, the jockey having been aboard for all but her opening three starts.
“It’ll be pretty hard to get him off at this stage, but we’ll see what happens,” he added.
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