Horse Racing
Outside barrier no worry for Antino in Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap

13/06/2024 12:35

An outside barrier for Tony Gollan’s star galloper Antino hasn’t dampened the trainer’s enthusiasm for the gelding’s chances in Saturday’s (15 June) G1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm.

Antino drew barrier 20, but it was even worse for top weight Bella Nipotina who will start alongside the gelding in barrier 21 in the AU$3 million (approx. HK$15.55 million) feature.

The markets reacted quickly to the outside barrier draws with Antino drifting slightly and now being strongly challenged by James Cummings-trained Vilana as the popular pick.

Vilana has raced twice in the Stradbroke Handicap as a colt but has been rejuvenated since recently being gelded. He has been sensationally supported in the markets after a dominant win in last Saturday’s (8 June) G2 Moreton Cup (1200m) at Eagle Farm.

But coming out of an outside gate hasn’t bothered Gollan with Antino.

 “I didn’t come here worrying too much about the gates, the stats say you can win from anywhere,” Gollan said at the official barrier draw.

 “I’m not worried about where he is drawn, he likes to get out and chase, he likes a bit of room and he will get plenty of that out there.”

Gollan’s other potential runner in the race Freedom Rally has drawn ideally in barrier five, but is the first reserve and faces a battle to make the final field of 18.

Top weight Bella Nipotina won the G1 Doomben 10,000 (1200m) and then finished a narrow second at Eagle Farm in the G1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m).

The mare, which has the top weight of 123lb, has never raced at 1400m before, but trainer Ciaron Maher is confident the six-year-old can get the extra distance.

The race has plenty of depth and many chances.

Grahame Begg is expecting his mare Magic Time, drawn ideally in barrier nine but could slot into barrier seven if all of the reserves don’t make the field, to bounce back after having little luck at her last start in the Kingsford Smith Cup. She is a dual Group 1 winner at 1400m.

Stefi Magnetica, trained by Bjorn Baker, and Peter G Moody and Katherine Coleman-trained Roll On High, are both on the minimum of 110lb.

Trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr were hoping for a better barrier than 16 for their top chance, Amenable.

Trainers Annabel Neasham and Kris Lees have eight of the 18 runners in the G2 The HKJC World Pool Q22 (2200m).

Former Irish galloper Fawkner Park is the pick of Neasham’s five runners and won the Listed Albury Cup (2000m), the Listed Wagga Wagga Gold Cup (2000m) and just failed at his most recent start in the G1 Doomben Cup (2000m) when finishing third to stablemate Bois D’Argent, who is also highly-rated in Saturday’s race.

Neasham will use the AU$1.2 million (approx.HK$6.22 million) The HKJC World Pool Q22 as a gauge to whether Fawkner Park could be set for richer races, including the G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).

Lees’ trio – Adelaide River, Amokura and Cleveland – is well down in the market.

Fawkner Park and Bois D’Argent face tough opposition from Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Huetor, drawn out in barrier 17.

After winning the Doomben Cup in 2022 and 2023, the Snowdens backed-up Huetor into The Q22 but without success both times.

This time around, Huetor finished fourth in the Doomben Cup at his most recent start last month and the original plan was to bypass The Q22 and send the seven-year-old for a break.

 “I was nearly going to turn him out,” Peter Snowden said. “Previously, we’ve gone to the Q22 after (the Doomben Cup) and it hasn’t worked for us.”

Huetor spent four days in the paddock after the Doomben Cup and when he came back into the stables Snowden said he looked “amazing” and was decided then to have his third try at the weight-for-age race.