Ritchie’s focus turns to talented three and four-year-olds

Swords Drawn winning at Hastings Photo: Trish Dunell

Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is looking forward to stepping smart four-year-old Swords Drawn (Camelot) through his grades this spring after the gelding broke maiden ranks over 1400m at Hastings on Saturday.

Ridden by Opie Bosson, Swords Drawn won by two and three-quarter lengths at his 11th start, having placed on five occasions and competed well at stakes level as a three-year-old.

“He is obviously a very talented horse, he split the Derby and the Oaks winners in the Wellington Stakes (Gr.3, 1600m) and he ran third in the Salver (Listed, 2100m) close up behind Cutadeel,” Ritchie said.

“The interesting part with him is whether he is going to be one of those horses who is going to be a solid miler because he has a bit of a turn of foot, or whether he is going to get over ground.

“He is by Camelot out of a Zabeel mare so that is a lethal cross for getting a little bit further.

“I guess we just have to play it by ear as to whether he is ready for 2000m and we will get a line from his jockeys as to whether we try him over 2000m at Christmas time or whether we stick to the mile.

“He is in a unique position where he is still a rating 65 horse and he can go to the premier meetings going through the grades which will give him plenty of confidence. You’d like to think he would be highly competitive in those.

“We would like to try and get him in those open miles or those cup style races just after Christmas with no weight on his back. That will be the key targets with him.

“We will have a little bit of fun and bank some money and when we do get to the open company then we are going to have a crack with hopefully some decent prizemoney in the bank before we get there.”

Ritchie also has much to look forward to from his pair of smart three-year-old fillies Jennifer Eccles (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle) ($10) and Bella Mente (NZ) (El Roca) ($21) which remain on track for a tilt at the Gr.1 gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

Bella Mente showed she was back on track with an eye catching second placing over 1200m at Te Rapa on Friday behind Chiaretta (NZ) (Makfi), bouncing off a disappointing fresh-up performance where she suffered a cardiac arrhythmia and finished last.

“She is in great order and I thought we might have got that other filly,” Ritchie said.

“That lack of a recent run just sort of told on her the last bit.

“She will take her place in either the Soliloquy (Gr.3, 1400m) or the Sarten (Gr.2, 1400m). If she has got a hiccup, it is that she needs good ground. She will run at whichever track provides the best surface. If they are both good tracks then we can go by barrier.”

Ritchie said he felt $21 about the daughter of El Roca in the Guineas was overs and he hoped to go one better than her half-sister Bella Gioia (NZ) (Swiss Ace), who ran second in the fillies feature in 2016.

The Cambridge trainer said he had a couple of options for Jennifer Eccles, who will also be nominated for the Soliloquy Stakes at Ellerslie on October 26.

“She is in a luxurious position, where though she is stakes placed, she is still a maiden,” Ritchie said.

“We have the option of running her in a maiden race if we are looking for a softer kill.”

Jennifer Eccles was first-past-the-post at Hawke’s Bay two starts back before being relegated for interference to Kali and endured a checkered-passage at the same venue when fourth in the Gr.2 Gold Trail Stakes (1400m) last start. 

“Because of the fact she has been knocked around a fair bit, I have spent more time in the Steward’s Room with her than any horse in my life,” Ritchie said.

“It would be nice to see her drop back and get to the outside and get home in a weaker race which the Soliloquy is likely to be.

“She has a very quick turn of foot and there is probably a length between those top fillies, there is not much between them.

“I don’t think one is more dominant than the other so I think it will come down to the best ride, the best run, and the best prepared horse in the Guineas.”

Meanwhile, Ritchie reports The Good Fight (NZ) (High Chaparral) is coming home next week after finishing 10th in the Gr.3 Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.

“He will have 10 days off before he flies home, have 10 days in the water walker and we will see how he comes to hand over Christmas. We will set him for the Auckland Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) and if he runs well we can revisit Melbourne next year.

“He still has a bit of growing to do despite his age. He wasn’t up to them yet and now we realise that we will retreat quietly and get our confidence back.”

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