Byford owner-trainer Shane Quadrio’s smart colt Bushwacked has drawn ideally at barrier No. 1 in the $50,000 Champagne Classic for two-year-olds at Gloucester Park on Friday night, and reinsman Kyle Harper plans to set the pace and improve on his winning performance last Friday week.
There were only four starters in that 1730m event in which Harper allowed Bushwacked to dawdle through the opening quarters of the final mile in 34sec. and 33.8sec. before final 400m sections of 29.9sec. and a sparkling 27.2sec. on his way to an easy victory over Five Bangles and Battlescard at a slow 2.4.6 rate.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to get away with going so slowly this week,” said Harper. “I went a bit overboard and was able to get away with a ridiculously slow half and then only run one quarter (the last).
“Four-horse fields are very tricky to drive in, and though we don’t want to be rating too quickly early this week, we will certainly be rating a lot more genuinely than we did last time out.
“I think we can lead again, and he should have improved since his last run. He has gone 56sec. (for the final 800m) on multiple occasions, and if he can rate 1.56 out in front, I think he can win this week. The question mark for all the runners is stepping up from 1730m to 2130m. This will be a big test for a few of them, but I don’t think it will worry Bushwacked too much.”
Gary Hall jnr, who drove Battlescard into third place behind Bushwacked a fortnight ago, said he was confident the Gary Elson-trained gelding was capable of turning the tables and winning this week’s group 2 classic.
“This will be a differently run race in which I will be happy to hold the breeze and try to control the race from there. Battlescard is pretty tough.”
Capel trainer-reinsman Aiden de Campo has a good opinion of Rock On Top, who looms as the youngster who should prove hard to beat despite starting out wide at barrier No. 7. Rock On Top has won at three of his four appearances. He possesses excellent gate speed and also is capable of unwinding a powerful finish.
Chris Voak will drive Ross Olivieri’s talented colt Griffin Lodge and is disappointed that he has drawn the outside barrier (No. 9).
“Griffin Lodge worked exceptionally well this morning (Tuesday), but we will need a lot of luck from the outside draw,” he said. “However, he’s got the ability to win. We’ve got to sit off them and come with one run.”
Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell is suffering from a torn ligament in a wrist and will be unable to drive his promising gelding Whataretheodds, who will start from barrier five. Bell has engaged Michael Grantham to handle Whataretheodds, who will be having his first start for two months.
“He was meant to resume racing in the Gold Bullion heats a couple of weeks ago, but he was suffering from a bit of colic and had to scratch him,” explained Bell. “He missed only two days work and went all right in a trial on Sunday when he went around without the blinkers.
“He’s a lot better with the blinkers on; he needs to be forced to concentrate. He doesn’t feel like much of a horse, but as soon as you show him the shillelagh or touch him with it, he drops into another gear. He is very lazy in trackwork but seems to switch on on race nights.”