Having made good physical development over a short spell the John O’Shea-trained Old North is nearing a spring return where the Epsom Handicap 2016 is shaping up as a possible Group 1 target.
The Godolphin-raced Lonhro colt has enjoyed three wins over his eight starts to date, the rising four-year-old last seen crossing fourth to Leebaz in early May’s Group 2 A.D. Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast.
That followed a strong Sydney Autumn Carnival campaign highlighted by his Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) victory over Torgersen at Rosehill in late March.
Old North’s other top autumn performances were a fourth when under a half-length off the winner Hattori Hanzo in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) on March 12 and a second to He’s Our Rokkii at Randwick in the Group 3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m) on April 16.
Having shown good ability in strong company up to 2000m, O’Shea is weighing up the Sydney and Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival options for Old North who has improved dramatically since his last start his trainer told Racenet.
“Of the horses in our stable that have made dramatic physical improvement Old North’s one,” O’Shea said.
“He’s finally filled into his big frame. Very happy with him physically.
“Going into open company he probably has to improve a tad and looking at him now, I’m expecting that will be the case.
“He’s made good, good physical improvement.”
Run over the mile at Randwick Racecourse on Saturday October 1, the $1 million Epsom Handicap (1600m) is a possible target as is the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on the Sunday of the same AFL Grand Final weekend in Melbourne at Flemington Racecourse.
“He’ll still be lightly handicapped in an Epsom or a Toorak,” O’Shea added.
Should he keep Old North to the 1600m, O’Shea will be chasing his second Epsom Handicap success following a win with Racing To Win back in 2006.
If he opts for a raid on the Turnbull Stakes over the 400m extra, the trainer will shoot for his maiden win in the Victorian Group 1.
Other early 2016 Epsom Handicap hopefuls this spring include Kris Lees’ Randwick Guineas winner Le Romain and the Chris Waller-trained Spring Champion Stakes winner last October Vanbrugh.
The 2016 Turnbull Stakes meanwhile has been named as a likely target for runners including Waller’s The BMW winning Zabeel stallion Preferment and the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained Doomben Cup champ Our Ivanhowe as last year’s Caulfield Cup third-placegetter heads towards another shot at the $3 million feature on October 15.
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