Thunderbird One may bypass Windsor Park

Cambridge trainer Murray Baker is considering a tilt at the Gr.3 $70,000 Merial Ancare Metric Mile at Awapuni on Saturday week for Thunderbird One after his disastrous Gr.1 attempt last weekend.

“He’s come through everything all right and I might run him in the mile at the Marton meeting,” said Baker. “It’ll either be there or go back for the second day at Hastings (and a start in the Gr.1 Windsor Park Stud Plate.”

Thunderbird One charged the front of his barrier just before the field was released for the Gr.1 Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings last Saturday. His gate opened slowly (resulting in him being declared a non-runner) and he began awkwardly with jockey Leith Innes being dislodged when he became fractious.

Though Thunderbird One has been late scratched in the past because of his barrier manners, his performance last Saturday wasn’t considered worthy of an official warning.

“It wasn’t totally his fault,” said Baker. “The barrier guy had hold of his ear, as he was instructed, but apparently he was told to let go of it a bit early. That’s when the horse anticipated the start and charged into the gate.

“It’s a shame it happened because I gave him a chance of being right in it. He was ready and I’m sure he would have measured up. But he’ll get his chance.”

Baker was in Melbourne last weekend, keeping tabs on (Its A) Dundeel and Orion, who both competed at the Caulfield meeting. Dundeel finished fourth to the unbeaten superstar Atlantic Jewel in the Gr.1 NZ Bloodstock Memsie Stakes and Orion beat only home home in the McNeil Stakes, but was doing his best work over the final stages.

“I was very happy with Dundeel’s run,” said Baker. “Atlantic Jewel was unbelievable and she was ready for that race. Dundeel did well to finish fourth and he’s going to improve a lot from it.

“He’ll be better-suited in the Underwood Stakes next time, then he’ll go on to the Caulfield Stakes before the Cox Plate.”

Baker was also pleased with Orion’s Australian debut.

“Sure he ran second-last, but his last furlong (200m) was the second-fastest in the race,” said Baker. “He’s still very green and he needs more ground. He showed that with the way he ran on. He’ll end up with blinkers on.”

Orion is likely to start next over 1500 metres at Moonee Valley and will need to win to have any chance to make the final field for the Gr.1 Caulfield Guineas.

“He’s no hope of getting in at this stage and besides I don’t think he will be sharp enough for them over 1600,” said Baker. “We’ll get a better idea after his next run.”