Sydney-based trainer Bjorn Baker will use a run at Canterbury Racecourse on Saturday as an early guide as to the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival campaign of possible Epsom Handicap 2015 hope Burbero.
Baker has two nominees for the $85,000 The July Sprint (1100m) this weekend with his veteran nine-year-old Zaratone lining up for his 68th start and O’Reilly six-year-old Burbero.
Grey warhorse Zaratone has had three starts at the Canterbury course and comes off a second to Shiraz on a Heavy (8) Rosehill track from July 4.
The flying son of Zariz is set to suit a drier track this weekend and Baker hopes that and the form around Shiraz, who scored an easy win at Rosehill again last Saturday, stacks up for his evergreen galloper.
“That form has held up well with Shiraz winning dominantly on the weekend,” Baker told The Daily Telegraph.
“The furthest he’s been beaten this time in is three lengths and he’s been taking on the best sprinters around at this time of year.
“I’ve given up on Sydney’s weather but at least we’re running on a track that drains well. We’re hoping that means it’ll be drier than what he’s run on at his past couple of starts.
“I mean, he handles the wet but what he loves doing is dragging them outside their comfort zone and he’s just got to work that little bit harder to do that when the track is heavy.
“He goes well at Canterbury. He’s only won one race there but he handles the course well as a lot of front-running types do.”
Baker is also confident Saturday’s 1100m will work in Zaratone’s favour as he has had 41 previous runs over the distance for 11 wins, five seconds and four thirds.
“He’s got the speed of a genuine 1000m horse but unlike most of those types he’s can stick it out at the business end,” he said.
“When he steps up to 1100m none of them can go with him and he doesn’t start coming back to them until quite late in the piece.”
Burbero meanwhile has his first run this weekend since running ninth to Rugged Cross, Chris Waller’s import trumping the form with a Listed Winter Stakes (1400m) win over the weekend, over 1400m at Randwick back on April 18.
Second in both Rosehill’s Parramatta Cup (1900m) in February and the Canberra Cup (2000m) in Listed company in March, Burbero went on to win the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) during the autumn.
After that Baker stepped the horse up in class for a run in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) where he was far from disgraced running only two and a half lengths away sixth to Japan’s Real Impact in the classic.
He comes into the July Sprint on the back of a solid third in a Kembla Grange trial over 800m from July 8 and Baker is looking for a guide as to where to take the sprinter – miler this season.
“There’s a bit of improvement in him but they’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.
“While he acquitted himself very well at Group 1 level in the George Ryder Stakes, I think we’re best off getting him nice and fit for those early Group races in the spring.”
A likely option made more appealing by the boost in prize money from $500,000 to $1 million is the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick on October 3.
“He’s come back well given the big prep he had last time and if he keeps stepping up maybe we could look at a race like the Epsom Handicap,” Baker said.
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