The now Cranbourne-based Kiwi expat and co-trainer Trent Busuttin has confirmed Tavago will run next-up in the Underwood Stakes 2016 in Melbourne after being scratched from a race in Sydney this weekend.
A four-year-old son of Tavistock, the former New Zealand galloper Tavago was one of eight original acceptors for the $200,000 Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
He has since been scratched from the George Main Stakes Day feature where the John O’Shea-trained runaway Chelmsford Stakes winner Hartnell is odds-on favourite at $1.45 for the win through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Busuttin, who prepares Tavago in partnership with Natalie Young, confirmed plans to keep the gelding in Victoria after his somewhat disappointing first-up 11th when six lengths off the winner Awesome Rock at Moonee Valley in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) a fortnight back.
“He was always 50-50 whether to go,” Busuttin Racing Ahead on RSN 927.
“I probably jumped to a harsh reaction with his first-up run.
“The horse was definitely looking for 2000m, but I was initially disappointed with the run.
“While it was still fair, I thought he needed to get up over 2000m.
“While the distance suits, the 20-hour-round float trip to Sydney and back seems just a bit too much at this stage of the preparation.”
The Dato’ was the galloper’s first-up run of the spring and his maiden start since posting the big 3.3 length Sydney victory on April 2 during ‘The Championships’ over Crown Oaks winner Jameka in the Group 1 ATC Derby (2400m).
First-up Tavago was ridden by Ben Melham, but Busuttin said he didn’t blame the hoop for the unplaced Group 2 performance.
“He probably needed to be ridden 2-3 lengths back off the pace,” he said.
“It was through no fault of the jockey, the horse jumped and put himself there and travelled keen.
“He was at top speed to hold his position, and was running on empty at the line rather than sitting back off them and hitting the line.
“He’s come through it well – no point dwelling on it.
“I watched [last year’s Melbourne Cup winner] Prince Of Penzance run a similar race first-up, and then run excellent second-up.”
Tavago’s primary target this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is the $3 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15.
He will head towards that classic now via Saturday week’s $500,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) held at Caulfield Racecourse on September 24.
“We’ll drop him out the back and have him hitting the line [in the Underwood Stakes], and that’ll top him off nicely for the Caulfield Cup,” Busuttin said.
The past two Underwood Stakes winners both backed-up off a run in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes with Foreteller (3rd in 2014) and Mourinho (6th in 2015).
New Zealand gallopers also have a strong recent Underwood Stakes record with the Kiwis saluting three years on the trot with: Lion Tamer (2011), Ocean Park (2012) and It’s A Dundeel (2013).
The latest pre-field Caulfield Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au have Charlie Appleby’s English raider Scottish as the $15 favourite, while Tavago is rated a $21 shot.
For access to all the top Group 1 racing odds and offers this spring – including on Saturday’s George Main Stakes – head to Ladbrokes.com.au now.