Ready for Ellerslie pipe-opener

Dawn Patrol, pictured winning at Matamata, will get a right-handed test at Ellerslie in a hit-out on Thursday.

Gr.1 performer Dawn Patrol will get his first feel of the Ellerslie track this week as part of his preparation for a return to racing on the course on Boxing Day.

The smart Cambridge three-year-old has been freshened since his fighting second to Madison County in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 10 and trainer Frank Ritchie plans to give him a hit-out at Ellerslie on Thursday.

“I’m taking him up for a gallop to give him a look at Ellerslie,” Ritchie said.

“All his three races have been left-handed and I want to let him get the feel of Ellerslie before he races there on Boxing Day. It always helps if they’ve had a run around Ellerslie.”

Dawn Patrol’s Boxing Day mission is the Listed Shaw’s Wire Ropes Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) and Ritchie plans to reassess his progress after that event with a view to his main mission, the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 26.

“If he needs another race between times there’s one at Ellerslie on January 13 which will fit in nicely, but I won’t be making a decision until after the Uncle Remus,” Ritchie said. “He mightn’t need another one.”

Though Dawn Patrol hasn’t raced right-handed, two of four trials have been that way round and those are the only two trials in which he has been beaten.

“He was second in his first trial at Avondale and got on the wrong leg and wandered about a bit,” Ritchie said. “The other time was at Te Aroha before he went down for the 2000 Guineas.

“That day he relaxed lovely and went a top trial (for third to Passing Shot and Stratocaster).”

Frank Ritchie has two nominees for the Vodafone New Zealand Derby.

Dawn Patrol created a big impression when unbeaten in his first two starts, both at Matamata, and Ritchie says he has thrived since returning from Christchurch.

“He had 11 or 12 days out spelling and he put on 28 kilos,” he said.

“He’s a big doer and every morning when I go down to the stables he’s the first one looking for his feed.”

Dawn Patrol, a son of Dawn Approach, holds a nomination for the Gr.1 $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 2, but Ritchie is unsure whether his stamina will stretch to the staying test.

“He was as fit as he could be when he went to Riccarton for the 1600m and with the sprint he’s got I’m not sure he’ll get the Derby trip, but we’ll find out,” Ritchie said.

“He’s by a sprint sire, but he’s from the family of Limitless and she got two miles.

“I’d like to think he can get a mile and a quarter (2000m) and, if he won or ran on strongly to be placed in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic, we’d have to run him in the Avondale Guineas to see if he could get to the Derby.

“It’s the only race that fits in as a suitable lead-up to the Derby for him.”

The Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) is at Ellerslie on February 16, three weeks after he contests the first of two $1 million three-year-old events and a fortnight before the second one, the New Zealand Derby.

Grand Award, another horse Ritchie has nominated for the New Zealand Derby, has shown promise in his three trials, capped off with a win at Te Aroha last week. The son of Shamus Award is set to make his raceday debut in a three-year-old maiden 1400m at Te Rapa this coming Saturday.

“His trial was good and he has got ability,” Ritchie said.

“He’s definitely a going to make it over ground, but he’ll have to do a hell of a lot to get to the Derby.

“It’ll probably come up too soon for him, but we’ll give him his chance to get there.”