Kawi withdrawal aids baby of field

Saracino (Lisa Allpress) beating Farm Boy at the Te Teko trials earlier this month. (Photo: Trish Dunell).

Saracino (Lisa Allpress) beating Farm Boy (grey) at the Te Teko trials earlier this month. (Photo: Trish Dunell).

The withdrawal of likely hot favourite Kawi has opened the door further for Cambridge youngster Saracino to stamp himself positively against open company in the Gr.2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa on Saturday.

Kawi, a winner of three Group One races, suffered a minor injury in trackwork this morning, much to the dismay of trainer Allan Sharrock.

“He banged a cannon bone in work this morning,” said Sharrock. “He’s come up brilliantly and I thought he was forward enough to win. He had gone 1000 metres on the grass and came home the last 600 easily in 42 before he pulled up slightly sore.”

Kawi’s defection has left Saracino, the sole three-year-old in the field, facing nine opponents with the in-form Southern Icon, winner of his last four starts, moving into favouritism at $3 with the TAB bookmakers, while Saraceno is now second favourite at $4.20.

The Foxbridge Plate has become a race for the ages but also the aged as in the 16 runnings of the Te Rapa sprint this century the average age of the winner is 7.38.

The youngest winner was five-year-old Fleur De Lune in 2012 and seven of the past 16 winners have been at least eight, among them Bulginbaah, who won the race for a third time as a 10-year-old in 2010.

They are statistics that serve as bemusement to Cambridge trainer Andrew Forsman who, along with co-trainer Murray Baker, will produce Saracino in the 1200-metre weight-for-age feature.

“Maybe we should scratch now?” Forsman quipped when told of the veterans’ record.

However, while few youngsters tackle the race, the Foxbridge Plate holds a lot of appeal for Forsman and Saracino.

“It’s a great starting point for us,” he said. “We need to get the horse going. The owners have designs on getting the colt to Melbourne this spring and this race will give him a good hit-out on a track that’s only half an hour away.

“It’s a good option for us because the Te Rapa track is a good surface and with the light weight [51.5kg], it won’t hurt him. If he can pick up prizemoney, we’ll be really happy.”

Not only is the Lib Petagna-raced Saracino the only three-year-old in the Foxbridge Plate, he is also still a maiden. However the lightly raced youngster has been twice stakes placed, including a third behind stablemate Luna Rossa in the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes.

The last three-year-old to win the Foxbridge Plate was Great Chevalier in 1984 and, though Saracino will be out to replicate those deeds, he is also following a familiar path set by an illustrious stablemate.

The Baker stable produced subsequent dual Group One winner Lion Tamer in the 2010 Foxbridge Plate as a three-year-old, but he was checked out of contention when Irish Colleen fell.

“He went on to do good things later that preparation so hopefully Saracino can go on and do the same,” said Forsman.

“The similarities between them is their athleticism and that neither is overly big, but the key is that this race is a good starting point. With a colt, it’s good black-type up for grabs.”

Forsman said there were no set plans for Saracino, but safely through Saturday’s race the Gr.1 Caulfield Guineas would become a target.

Races such as the Gr. 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Hastings on August 27 or the Gr.2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on September 12 are among the next lead-up options.

– NZ Racing Desk