Ritchie aiming for another City Of Auckland Cup

It’s still a long way to the New Year, but Cambridge trainer Frank Ritchie is already thinking of racing on that day at Ellerslie.

Ritchie won the Group II Waiwera City Of Auckland Cup (2400m) on the last New Year’s Day with Showcause and he gave a hint at a possible contender for the same race this season when his lightly tried mare Miss Isle stormed to an impressive win at Matamata last Saturday.

Unlike Showcause, who was well seasoned and with a New Zealand Cup to his credit when he got to Ellerslie, Miss Isle has yet to face tougher than Rating 70 class. But there is no disputing the potential of the Bachelor Duke four-year-old.

Miss Isle produced a big finish to score over 1600 metres at Te Rapa on September 16 and was even more impressive last Saturday. Staging a similar finish, she charged home with big strides to grab the leaders and score by a short neck from El Soldado with Sirani doing her best work late for third.

It was Miss Isle’s third win from six starts and in both her last two successful starts she has been ridden by Jason Waddell, who  holds her in high regard. Ritchie also believes she has the class to work her way through the grades.

“To be honest she surprised me with the way she did it at Te Rapa, but I’m not surprised this time,” said Ritchie. “She’s a real stayer and she could be just the type to go for the City Of Auckland Cup. I’d like to sneak into the race down in the weights so I’ll have to place her carefully.”

Miss Isle raced once as a late two-year-old when unplaced at Rotorua, but fresh-up five months later she overcame a rocky run to win well over 1350 metres at Paeroa. She ran fifth and 11th in her next two starts before being given a spell and is now unbeaten since resuming.

“Last year she was a bit toey and didn’t cope very well,” said Ritchie. “The best thing I did was give her a couple of 1200-metre trials and got her to drop out. Being a winner she had to go in the open heats and that was good for her. In her last trial she ran third to Run To The Bank and it was a nice trial.”

Miss Isle is from Island Doy, a Doyoun mare, and is therefore a half-sister to Doyenne, who was a talented stayer from Mark Walker’s stable. “She’s bred to stay all day and she races like it,” said Ritchie.

Meanwhile Ritchie is pleased with the progress of his top stayer Showcause, who ran an encouraging third first-up in Melbourne when chasing home Mourayan in the Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington last Sunday week.

“He blew like hell after the race, but has recovered well,” said Ritchie. “He’ll run next in the Geelong Cup and Luke Nolen will ride him again provided Peter Moody doesn’t have anything in the race.”

If Showcause performs well in the Geelong Cup on Sunday he will press ahead for the Lexus Stakes, which will determine a start in the Melbourne Cup. “If he gets in the Melbourne Cup he will obviously run in it otherwise he will go for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes or the Sandown Classic on the last day,” said Ritchie.