Spring carnival over for Cambridge stablemates

Cambridge stablemates El Roca and Sangster will be arriving back in New Zealand on Thursday after luck deserted them in Melbourne.

El Roca did manage a first-up second behind Éclair Big Bang in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude, then lost all chance in a home-turn skirmish in last Saturday’s Gr. 1 $A1 million BECK Caulfield Guineas, while Sangster’s Caulfield and Melbourne Cups campaign was cut short after just two runs because of soreness.

“Sangster’s feet haven’t come right and it’s no use pressing on,” said co-trainer Trent Busuttin. “It’s a shame because on his autumn form he was a realistic chance in the Caulfield Cup.

“He can have a good three or four weeks’ spell and we might take him to Brisbane for the Winter Carnival.”

Sangster’s wins last autumn included the Gr. 1 Auckland Cup at Ellerslie, but Busuttin has already ruled out a further tilt at the 3200-metre feature.

“The Auckland Cup is out of the equation,” he said. “The BMW in Sydney is ideal for him, but that would mean he could have only six to eight weeks’ off and that won’t be enough.”

Busuttin is also looking at another trip to Australia for El Roca, who still holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Sothy’s NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton next month.

After his desperately unlucky fifth behind Long John in last Saturday’s Gr. 1 $A1 million BECK Caulfield Guineas, El Roca stands out as the horse to beat in the $400,000 Christchurch feature, but it’s no certainty he will line up.

“The main aim is the Australian Guineas in the autumn and we’ll wait until he gets home and see how he is before we make a decision about the 2000 Guineas,” said Busuttin.

“We’ll work back from the Australian Guineas with a programme and try and get a couple of runs in beforehand, over 1200 and 1400 metres.

“It will roll around quick enough and there might not be enough time to get the 2000 Guineas in.

”I’ll just see how he is after he’s been home a few days and make a decision probably early next week.”

The Gr. 1 $A500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) is at Flemington on March 1 and Busuttin has no concerns about El Roca being up to the challenge.

“He showed again on Saturday he’s up to the best over there,” said Busuttin. “You can’t say for certain that he would have won if he hadn’t copped all the trouble, but he would have been first or second.

“Really with any luck he could be unbeaten, four from four.”

El Roca suffered his first defeat when rider Craig Newitt pushed the button too soon in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude and it was that winner, Éclair Big Bang, who was partly responsible for him losing all hope in last Saturday’s Caulfield Guineas.

Busuttin and co-trainer, his partner Natalie Young, were confident going into the Guineas, especially after El Roca drew barrier two, but excitement turned to dismay approaching the home turn.

“I was happy with him being behind Éclair Big Bang at the 1000 metres, but at the 600 it was game over,” said Busuttin.

Éclair Big Bang had been tightened in onto El Roca at the 1200 and 1100 metres and rounding the home turn Éclair Big Bang stopped and El Roca was locked up on the inside with Newitt having to force his way into the clear around the tiring Weinholt (12th) and Charlie Boy (seventh).

A chain reaction saw horses bouncing off each other, including El Roca, while Long John slipped clear and on to a trouble-free win.

El Roca was back almost second-last once he was balanced and saw some daylight and he ran on strongly into fifth, just over six lengths from Long John.

“He was entitled to drop out after what happened, but he picked himself up and finished it off well,” said Busuttin. “He had a fair bit of skin off after the race, but he’s bounced back. He’ll have a saddle on again tomorrow morning.”