Back for fourth Cup bid

El Soldado leading runner-up King Kamada halfway down the straight before finishing fifth in last year's Auckland Cup. (Photo: Wally O'Hearn).

El Soldado leading runner-up King Kamada halfway down the straight before finishing fifth in last year’s Auckland Cup. (Photo: Wally O’Hearn).

El Soldado will be back for his fourth tilt at the Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup at Ellerslie tomorrow with punters treating the Cambridge stayer with very little respect.

The Colombia nine-year-old will start as one of the outsiders in the 3200-metre feature and is the least-fancied of Cambridge’s five starters (the others contenders being Sacred Master, Decorah, Show The World and Storming The Tower), but when it comes down to experience in the Auckland Cup he is actually top of the list.

Though El Soldado hasn’t won an Auckland Cup, he has done the next best thing, finish runner-up. That placing came in his first attempt at the race in 2013 when he chased home fellow Cambridge stayer Sangster after earning his Cup start with some sound lead-up performances including a second in the City Of Auckland Cup.

A year later he was back again in the Auckland Cup field and finished 10th to Who Shot Thebarman, after which trainer and part-owner Phillip Devcich, switched him to hurdling for three starts with the result being three placings.

Last year El Soldado earned his Auckland Cup start after a fourth in the Avondale Gold Cup and a win earlier in his preparation. He did well to finish fifth to Rock Diva and went on to run third in the Bay Of Plenty Cup and win the Te Aroha Cup in his next couple of starts.

El Soldado’s only glimpse of form this campaign is a third behind Pondarosa Miss over 2100 at Ellerslie last January. Since then he has finished seventh of nine to Sacred Master (Auckland Cup favourite) at Matamata, second-last behind Guarantor at Te Rapa and a last-start ninth of 15, again behind Auckland Cup contender Guarantor, in the Listed Marks Ewen & Associates Kaimai Stakes at Matamata.

It is a similar formline to his lead-up to the 2014 Auckland Cup, but Devcich hasn’t given up hope of getting some of the money tomorrow.

“We thought we’d have a crack,” said Devcich. “We know he can get the distance and hopefully he can get a good trip. He’s come up good in the last couple of weeks.”

El Soldado has had a different rider in each of his Auckland Cup bids, being ridden respectively by Jason Jago (when second to Sangster), Chris Dell and Lynsey Satherley, and it will again be the case tomorrow with Darryl Bradley climbing aboard for the first time.