John Thompson is looking forward to the race return of his 2015 Epsom Handicap-bound galloper Hooked who will clash with star stablemate First Seal first-up in Saturday’s Tramway Stakes in Sydney.
A competitive three-year-old with runs including a fourth in the 2013 Spring Champion Stakes and third in the 2014 ATC Derby behind Criterion, Hooked’s last win was in the Group 2 Crystal Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley last Cox Plate Day.
The now five-year-old Casino Prince stallion returned in the autumn with a promising first-up fourth to Cosmic Endeavour when beaten only one and a half lengths in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick.
He failed to make an impression in his subsequent three runs however finishing at the tail end of the field in two Rosehill Group 1s and then the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast last start in late April when 11th to Leebaz.
Hooked has twice trialled since then including a very close second over 1250m at Randwick on August 21, and was also a top performer in an exhibition gallop at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday alongside his Flight Stakes winning stablemate First Seal.
Both Thompson’s Fastnet Rock mare First Seal and Hooked will kick off their Sydney Spring Racing Carnival campaigns at Royal Randwick this Saturday on Chelmsford Stakes Day in the $175,000 Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) to be ridden by Tommy Berry and Tye Angland respectively.
First Seal boasts a top record over the distance (3-2-1-0) and is the current $7 favourite through Ladbrokes.com.au in the pre-field odds for the $1 million Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) run back at Randwick on October 3.
The Epsom Handicap is also the big target next month for Hooked who is at a far juicer price in the markets paying $26 to score the upset.
While his last campaign left a lot to be desired, Thompson is confident Hooked can improve and is looking bigger and stronger than ever before.
“He’s a big gross stallion now and will probably need the run on Saturday but I’m really happy with how he is coming along,” he told Racenet.
“I spelled him in Queensland and to me he looks better than he’s ever looked. He really thrived in Queensland.
“He’s going better than he was last prep. He’s in good shape.”
Working over 1200m on Run To The Rose Day, Hooked finished off his run well in the final 600m and there’s a chance he will also head to Melbourne later this spring for a shot at the $1 million Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington during the Cup Carnival, a race he finished fifth to Hucklebuck in last year.
“He ran home his last two furlongs in 12 and 11.8 on the dirt,” Thompson said.
“He’s in a good frame of mind and I reckon he’s in for a great prep.
“He just needs to find that length. He’s been a length below the good ones. He ran third in the Epsom, he ran fifth in the Emirates, both beaten a length.
“He’ll run Saturday and then go to Newcastle for the Cameron and then we’ll decide where he goes. Maybe the Epsom again or something else.”
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