Hurdles a good Indikator for novice's success
Indikator is a novice jumper in name only.
The rising 11-year-old, who will be favourite for the Awapuni Hurdles tomorrow, has had only two races over fences but had his first schooling session before he raced.
"He's enjoyed it [jumping] since day one," trainer Keith Opie said. "He wouldn't be doing it on race day if he didn't. When he schools he comes back squealing and pig rooting, he just loves it.
"We began schooling him as a three-year-old, in an attempt to improve his appetite. He wouldn't eat and just about sent me over the wall.
"We had to think outside the square and schooling has always been part of his programme since, otherwise he would try to out-think me."
He still doesn't eat a lot but, going by his record, he's eaten enough.
"He's not a big horse, he's 15.2 [hands], and doesn't carry a lot of weight. He's light on his feet and has never been unsound.
"He has little niggly problems now and feels his joints on firm ground but we are all getting older."
Indikator won the Rotorua Cup two starts back and then made it two wins from two races over hurdles with a decisive victory in a restricted open at Hastings.
"We popped him over a couple of fences this morning [Thursday] to let him know he has a hurdle race on Saturday," Opie said.
Indikator had just one jumping race last winter but will have most of his racing over fences this year.
"That was the plan for this year, target the Rotorua Cup and then concentrate on jumping," Opie added.
"And looking at the stakes for the winter handicaps this year, I don't think I will be tempted to change things around. The jumping races are worth more than the main handicaps.
"He [Indikator] is racing for $50,000 this weekend and is on the minimum, while if he waited for the Kiwifruit Cup [at Tauranga next weekend], he would be racing for $40,000 and have 60-61kg."
The richest middle distance handicap on the winter circuit this year is the $65,000 Taumarunui Cup (2100m), a drop of $15,000 on last year's stake. Most of the open races, including the Parliamentary Handicap and Whyte Handicap at Trentham, are worth $25,000.
Indikator is expected to maintain his unbeaten run over hurdles tomorrow, though Opie cautioned that the horse could be vulnerable.
"My one concern is that he's had two very tough runs, first at Rotorua and then when I backed him up [12 days later] over hurdles at Hastings. But that was the only hurdle race at the time that suited him.
"He had a very easy week in the paddock to get over those runs and one of the reasons I targeted Awapuni is that it's 2900m."
The Ken Browne Hurdle at Ellerslie last month was 3350m, the Hawke's Bay Hurdle will be 3100m and the Wellington Hurdle 3400m.
"But he will get his chance [at Awapuni]," Opie said. "He's an economical jumper, his best form is on wet ground and there should be a heap of pace on."
The $50,000 Hawke's Bay Hurdle, on June 28, is also likely to be on Indikator's programme but he will bypass Trentham, despite the $75,000 stake for the Wellington Hurdle.
Indikator won on a slow track at Trentham as a three-year-old, in May 2007, but ran last, beaten almost 30 lengths, in the 2012 Parliamentary Handicap.
"He just sinks at Wellington and doesn't come out," Opie said. "He doesn't owe us a thing and I just think it would be the wrong race for him."
Indikator will be the sole mount tomorrow for crack jumping jockey Craig Thornton.
"He's such a lovely horse to ride," Thornton said. "He's been jumping all his life and it's second nature to him.
"He's a horse who would probably get bored in retirement. After I pulled him up after his hurdle race at Hastings, he spun around and came back to the birdcage as if he hadn't had a race.
"He was just full of himself and loves being out there."
Indikator opened as a $2.40 favourite for the Awapuni Hurdles, with Rioch at $4.80, Houndscry at $6.50 and Aintree at $9.
The Dominion Post