*Sponsored by Racing NSW
Winner: 7.Ruthless Agent ($6)
Like the preparation of this still untapped three-year-old. He suffered his first defeat, having won his first three, in a Highway Handicap last start at Rosehill over 1500m but lost very few admirers. He was bumped around in the straight before sticking to his task across the line.
Blinkers go on for the first time to sharpen him up a touch more and he drops back to 1400m so fitness won't be an excuse. He does have the tendency to be slow into stride but from barrier 4, Mitch Bell should still be able to push on to be settle just worse than midfield. Doubt there is such a big price difference between Ruthless Agent ($6) and Pumpkin Pie ($2.50) come jump time.
What the trainer says (Kurt Goldman):
"He's just got that x-factor"
"Eckstein is our best three-year-old but this bloke is not far behind"
Quinella: 15. Pumpkin Pie ($2.50)
City form inevitably stacks up coming back to country company (as Perfect Dare proved in a big way in the Grafton Qualifier) and Pumpkin Pie won in brave fashion at Randwick last start in BM67 grade while the start prior was only 1.7 lengths off the flying Improvement who with that win made it four straight.
Last campaign Pumpkin Pie ran second to Eckstein from the Goldman yard in a Highway Handicap, and she has gone on to win a Listed race at Eagle Farm. However, drawing barrier 15 of 15 makes her task a tough one. Tactics will be interesting from Jay Ford as she is a pretty versatile filly. Prefer to be with Ruthless Agent at the odds.
What the trainer says (Danny Williams):
“Pumpkin Pie is the stand out of my four."
“The outside draw isn’t a totally bad thing as she doesn’t like to be cluttered up.”
Trifecta: 12. Shutter Bug ($8)
The second of Danny Williams' four runners, Shutter Bug has been freshened since running sixth behind Via Napoli at Randwick. The start prior to that she had no luck at all in a similar field. Again, she is another proven city performer having won three starts back at Randwick in BM76 grade. She is a month between runs so the drop back from the mile to 1400m suits. She has run very well off similar breaks in the past (including a win at Goulburn and a second at Canterbury beating home black-type performer Ravi).
She worked to the line nicely in a tickover trial on her home track at Goulburn recently alongside stablemate Pumpkin Pie. She is a genuine threat if the race is run to suit.
What the trainer says (Steven Phelps):
“She is a better horse than she was at this time last year.”
“She is spot on going into this race.”
Roughie: 8. Steel Frost ($17)
Steel Frost was a touch disappointing on face value at Randwick in a Highway Handicap last start but he looked in need of the run and should come on plenty from it. Back out to 1400m is much more to his liking. He is two from two over the trip, the first of which was five length romp at Canberra before backing that up with a win over Arigold and Cannot Be Serios at Kembla Grange.
He’ll settle much closer second-up and be a big improver at odds.
What the trainer says (Terry McCarthy):
“She ran a hell of a race at the Gold Coast last preparation behind Bound For Love and it won then two straight in Brisbane.”
*All prices courtesy of TAB and are correct as of 3.30pm Thursday 16 February 16.