Perth charger Rommel has been left to lead the attack from the west for this Saturday’s $500,000 Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington, after fellow Western Australian Disposition was pulled from the race with injury on Wednesday morning.
Disposition, fresh off a noteworthy eastern states debut run in which he ran second to the Gai Waterhouse colt Wandjina in the Group 3 C.S. Hayes Stakes last fortnight, was involved in a stable accident which has forced his withdrawal.
“He got loose and unfortunately slipped over and took a bit of skin off,” said Mornington Peninsula trainer Wez Hunter, who has had Disposition in his care since January.
“It’s a bit frustrating to be honest,” Hunter told RSN radio. “It’s going to take him 10 days to two weeks to heal and be OK, but the main thing is he’s alright.”
With his Melbourne campaign likely over, Hunter hinted that a trip to Sydney could be on the cards should the gelding recover as planned.
Rommel and Disposition were to renew acquaintances in Melbourne after trading blows at Ascot in November. Despite starting a rank $51 chance, Rommel made favourite Disposition work for his win in the Listed Fairetha Stakes, before reversing the quinella with a win two weeks later in the WA Guineas, saluting at $21 over his highly favoured counterpart.
Disposition returned to finish a short second to Irish galloper Moriarty in the Kingston Town Classic, with Rommel a few lengths back in mid-field.
The Neville Parnham-trained Rommel has also impressed on Victorian turf, finishing strongly to win the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, and has drawn well for the Guineas in barrier six. Punters may be slowly waking up as he was rated a $10 chance for the Guineas with TABtouch on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t on our itinerary to go into the Zeditave, but we’re pretty pleased with the result,” said Parnham. “He came through the run unscathed and it was only his second run.”
Parnham’s eldest son Steven will travel to Melbourne to ride Rommel, replacing younger brother Chris who stepped in in fine style last week.
Rommel has enjoyed a reasonably quiet week on the track, and will tune up with some light speed work before Saturday.
“He’s a nice horse – a really good bodied horse, he’s got a bit of height about him. He’s nice and quiet for a colt too. He’s the perfect racehorse,” said Parnham, adding that last weekend’s win and Commands pedigree had already prompted talk of Rommel’s future prospects as a stallion – prospects which will would be given a huge boost should success follow at Group 1 level.
Saturday’s Group 1 event over 1600m has attracted a capacity field led by Kermadec, who firmed as favourite at $3.60 on Wednesday after drawing barrier eight. Chris Waller’s burgeoning colt flashed home to beat a high quality field over the Guineas course in the Carbine Club Stakes on Derby Day, and ran an eye-catching third in the Hobartville Stakes at Rosehill last run, again hitting the line full of speed.
Waterhouse will look for Wandjina to continue his strong form from gate 10 on Saturday, but will have to do it without champion jockey Damien Oliver, who failed to have a suspension from last Saturday overturned on appeal and cannot return to racing until this Sunday. With local riders already booked for this Saturday, Waterhouse has secured the services of Melbourne Cup winner Brett Prebble, who will complete a fly-in fly-out mission from Hong Kong and look to steer the colt to a second straight win after the robust victory in the C.S. Hayes.
Also backing up from the race are local runners Chivalry, Merion, Stratum Star and Lucky Liberty, as well as NSW gelding Testashadow.
Stratum Star sat on the third line of betting on Wednesday after drawing favourably in gate 4 and Darren Weir will be looking for an improvement from the bold showing in the C.S. Hayes, where the chestnut colt finished a credible third behind Wandjina and Disposition.
Leading the ladies from barrier 2 is $13 chance Fontein Ruby, and shrewd trainer Robert Smerdon will surely be hoping to capitalise on the absence of Autumn nemesis Sabatini on Saturday, which has narrowly pipped his charge twice for Group honours this preparation. Fellow filly Sweet And Speedy will jump from gate 14 for Peter Moody and Luke Nolen, following her Group 3 win in The Vanity at Flemington on February 21.
Making the trip across Bass Strait is premier Tasmanian thoroughbred Admiral, who will represent the Apple Isle after taking honours locally over the distance in the listed Tasmanian Guineas and George Adams Plate this campaign.
Rounding out a truly national field is South Australian raider Alpine Eagle, who impressed with a narrow victory in the Group 2 Autumn Classic at Caulfield on Saturday. The colt’s barnstorming finish edged out Godolphin runner Minnesinger, who also backs up and will be piloted by Craig Williams following the withdrawal of his mount Disposition. Williams chases his second straight Guineas after saluting aboard Shamus Award last year.
Trainer Tony McEvoy had intended to rest Alpine Eagle following his performance on Saturday, but the lure of the Group 1 Guineas proved too much for trainer and connections.
by Mark Haywood