El Roca puts hand up for trip

El Roca pushed his case for a trip to Melbourne when maintaining his unbeaten record in the Listed $50,000 Westbury Stud Challenge 3YO Stakes at Ruakaka today.

Ridden for the first time by Mark Du Plessis, the Cambridge colt proved a class above his rivals in his first serious assignment, settling handy to the pace then racing away over the final stakes to win by two lengths from the stakeswinner Gobi Ranger with All Decked Out making ground late for third.

Trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young now have to decide which side of the Tasman will be the next mission for the exciting son of Fastnet Rock.

El Roca was nominated for the Gr. 1 $A1 million BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 12 before he had even raced and Busuttin followed up with the second payment for the race last week.
Going into today’s race, Busuttin knew El Roca would have to stand up and decisively beat the opposition, which included a handful of other highly regarded young gallopers. And that certainly happened with the promise of much more success to come.

“He was on and off the bit in the running today and the Aussie three-year-olds might be a bit sharp for him, but it’s very tempting to take him over,” said Busuttin. “I’ll make a decision next week. He’ll either go over or stay and go to Ellerslie for the Bonecrusher Stakes.”

The Listed $50,000 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) is on September 28, the same day as the Gr. 3 $A175,000 BECKS Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m), the race Busuttin is considering as a lead-up to the Caulfield Guineas.
Busuttin has a very high opinion of El Roca and he wanted to install that confidence into Du Plessis before his ride today.

“When I legged Mark up today I told him he was the best horse in the race and don’t worry being outside the leader,” said Busuttin. “I told him, if the horse was as good as I think he is, he’d win.”

The Ruakaka race has proved a good form guide in the past. In fact last year it was won by Sacred Falls, who went on to win both the Gr.1 Sothy’s NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton and the Gr. 1 Doncaster Handicap in Sydney.

Meanwhile, El Roca’s stablemate Sangster continued his path towards the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups with an encouraging run for sixth in today’s Gr. 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley.

Sangster surprised many punters when bouncing out to be vying for the early lead and later settling just off the pace. He fought to the line in a manner which suggests he is on target for his next mission, the Gr. 1 Turnbull Stakes.