This weekend’s Aurie’s Star Handicap at Flemington is one of the most important races of August, not just because of its own Group 3 status, but for what it will mean for the rest of the spring carnival.
A host of horses are using the Aurie’s Star Handicap as their first up test for a campaign leading into some of the biggest Group 1’s.
The winner of the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and even the Melbourne Cup could all be found in the Aurie’s Star field this Saturday.
The race itself may only be a 1200m sprint but that hasn’t deterred the connections of some top quality longer distance runners.
Rekindled Interest is one such horse, and trainer Jim Conlan is hoping to tread the same path which saw El Segundo eventually win the 2007 Cox Plate.
“It’s a nice spot to be kicking off,” he said.
“I was thinking of trialling on Monday, but I think he’ll get a lot more out of a race up the straight than what he will out of a trial.”
Rekindled Interest last ran in last year’s Victoria derby where he finished fifth, previous to that he was victorious in the Group 2 AAMI Vase.
Both those events are beyond the 2000m mark so it’s hard to see him figuring too strongly across such a short trip this Saturday.
Added to that is the fact he’s had suck a long break, so Conlan will be looking for a solid performance rather than a race win.
“It’d be great if I could have him ready for the Cox Plate,” he said.
“He’s had a win over 2000 metres at Stakes level at Moonee Valley and that’s what I would be aiming towards, but we’ll just see how he progresses after this race.
“He’s coming off a 10-month spell, he hasn’t had a trial or anything, so while he’s in good order I really think he’ll need the run.
“He’s quite a talented horse and I expect him to have a good spring, but I think he’s well and truly underdone for this race.”
He’s not the only horse in that boat though with a host of his weekend rivals likely to face off with him again later down the track.
Cedarberg is first up in this race after an Autumn which produced his maiden Group 1 victory in The BMW.
He’s being set for a spring campaign which will include the Caulfield Cup and hopefully then the Melbourne Cup.
Robert Hickmott will provide four more to the list as well with his contingent of ex-European stayers to launch their Australian spring preperations.
Alandi won the 2009 Irish St Ledger, Midas Tough won the 2010 Irish Derby, At First Sight was second in the 2010 Epsom Derby and the lightly raced Green Moon.
It’s always tough to get a good read on the European imports before they settle into Australia so for the Hickmott stable the Aurie’s Star will be one of the most important all year.
One horse which we have had a good look at though is Folding Gear.
He’s also headed for a staying test with the Caulfield Cup the most desirable outcome.
Co-trainer Shannon Hope acknowledges that like many the 1200m will be too short a trip but the run will set him up nicely for future assignments.
“It is not the ideal race to be starting off in but we have to start somewhere,” Hope said.
“The ideal plan would have been kick off in a 0-89 race over 1200 metres and to claim three kilos on him but the only race like that was at Mornington and that track doesn’t really suit get-back stayers.”
“Mentally and physically he (Folding Gear) has developed and I am more than happy with him, but 1200 metres is going to be a bit short for him and he is probably going to get a bit lost going down the straight.
“If he is running on and can run top eight and pick up $3000 I would be happy.”
From this run they will go into the Naturalism Stakes and it’ll be up the horse as to what happens form there.
“We will take the easiest path with him to that race which will tell us which direction we go,” Hope said.
“If he wins the Naturalism he will qualify for the Caulfield Cup and if he doesn’t stay then we have time to freshen him up for something, maybe at Flemington (during the carnival).”