Top local horseman Neville Parnham is confident he has his injury-prone galloper Checkpoint fit and fresh ahead of Saturday’s 2015 Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot Racecourse.
One of two elite levels on the Perth program this weekend, the $1 million Group 1 Crown Perth Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) features a full field of 16 sprinters including the emergency Silverstream coming in for the scratched Sheidel.
Parnham shoots for his maiden Winterbottom Stakes success saddling up two hopes in the race with last year’s WA Guineas winner Rommel and Snitzel seven-year-old Checkpoint.
Rommel is rated a $34 outsider in Winterbottom Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, markets led by visiting Brisbane star Buffering ($4).
Checkpoint is at even longer odds for the win, the gelding not having raced since a third to Elite Belle in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1200m) back in October last year.
Injuries have prevented Checkpoint contesting the past two editions of the Winterbottom Stakes, Parnham hoping it will be third time lucky for the honest galloper.
In 2013 the horse was scratched the night prior to the Winterbottom with an injury to a sesamoid bone and last year he suffered a bowed tendon during trackwork just weeks before the Railway Stakes Day feature.
This season it has been so far so good with Checkpoint completing a solid piece of work on Tuesday at Belmont Park that showed Parnham he was firing on all cylinders ahead of his return on Saturday.
“Checkpoint’s had quite a chequered career,” Parnham told The West Australian on Thursday.
“But we got him through his final gallop. He’s a high-class horse. He’s pretty fit and he goes well fresh.”
From five previous first-up runs Checkpoint boasts three wins, a second and a third.
He hasn’t won a race since a non-black type on New Year’s Day of 2013 however and is also yet to race in Group 1 company.
Parnham though believes in the horse’s ability, saying his placings in Group 3 level behind Magnifisio and Elite Belle last year show his class.
Saturday’s distance is also ideal with all five of Checkpoint’s wins from 17 starts have been over the 1200m.
Checkpoint jumps from barrier nine on the weekend with Parnham’s son Brad in the saddle, the gate last producing a Winterbottom Stakes winner with Barakey in 2012.
Parnham’s other runner Rommel is drawn one on his stablemate’s inside with gate eight and Brad’s brother Steven aboard, the Commands four-year-old running for the first time since a Group 3 Zeditave Stakes (1200m) win at Caulfield back in late February.
A winner of four of his 12 starts for over $480,000 in prize money, the stallion won the Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) over the mile a year ago before his seventh to Chris Waller’s Sydney raider Moriarty in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m).
He suffered a fetlock injury during the autumn after his Zeditave win that ruled him out of a shot at the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington in March.
“We haven’t rushed him back,” Parnham said.
“He’s done plenty of work.”
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