Graham Richardson will go into battle in tomorrow’s Thames Cup with two samurai lieutenants.
The Matamata trainer will saddle topweights Single Minded and Don Domingo in the $25,000 Lockwood Coastwood Homes Thames Gold Cup (2000m) and has engaged Matamata-based Japanese jockeys Shohei Shirahama and Masa Tanaka to do the riding.
Shirahama claims 2kg off last-start New Zealand Cup runner-up Single Minded, while Tanaka combines with 2011 Hawke’s Bay Cup winner Don Domingo.
Shirahama’s apprentice allowance brings Single Minded’s weight down to 58kg, but while Richardson expects last year’s Gr II City Of Auckland Cup and Gr II Avondale Cup winner to run a bold race, he says the main objective of tomorrow’s race is to help bring the stayer up to peak fitness for this month’s Wellington Cup.
‘‘I’m really happy with him. He’s forward enough but this is his leadup to the Wellington Cup and we’re taking him for a day out beforehand. It’s a starting point for him,’’ Richardson said yesterday.
TAB bookmakers yesterday opened Single Minded as a $4.80 favourite ahead of Don Domingo at $5, with Old Drumble and Parnell Prince sharing the third line of betting at $8.50.
The Thames Cup will be Bachelor Duke five-year-old gelding Single Minded’s first run since his gallant second in the Gr III New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton on November 17, a run that followed a fruitless Melbourne spring campaign.
‘‘He did us proud and he’s done well since,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘I was worried about it because he didn’t do a lot in Melbourne and I wasn’t 100 per cent happy. His last run in Melbourne was terrible. It was a gamble to pay the late entry for Christchurch but we had a chiropractor look at him and I think that did the trick.
‘‘He’s really improved in the last week and he’s forward enough to do something. But I had to give him some time off and didn’t go for the City Of Auckland Cup because he’d had a hard campaign and he needed a rest.
‘‘He’d gone to Melbourne and then he’d come back and went straight down to Christchurch. He had four weeks out in the paddock. He’ll go into this one and he’ll certainly improve with the run.
‘‘He’s going to improve but I’d expect him to do something. I expect him to be right there.’’
Single Minded has drawn favourably in barrier three and while he was on-pace for his two Gr II 2400m wins last year, Richardson wasn’t expecting him to be on the speed tomorrow over 2000m.
‘‘I’d be very surprised if he got to the front over that distance,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘He couldn’t in Australia and he couldn’t in his early races here in New Zealand. He might just run off his feet a little bit and I’m just a bit concerned about that.’’
While Richardson has some reservations about Single Minded’s winning chances, he has none about Don Domingo.
The Don Eduardo eight-year-old has had two leadup runs, last time making ground from near last to finish fourth at Ellerslie last month.
‘‘Very happy with him. Very, very happy,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘This is his type of race.’’
A winner of six of his 40 starts, Don Domingo wasn’t entered for the Gr II Wellington Cup (2400m) at Trentham on January 26, though Richardson hasn’t ruled out paying a late entry for the race.
‘‘We’d have to pay a late entry to run in the Wellington Cup but if he goes good enough we’d have to think about it very seriously,’’ he said.
Richardson has had few runners in Thames Cups over the years and has yet to win the race, though he did produce Trafalgar Flyer to finish second to Pyramus in 2002.
His only other runner at the meeting is Anyx, who contests the 1700m maiden and comes with her trainer’s endorsement.
‘‘She’s going well and she’s a definite chance,’’ he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News