Drone Strike, Fashionista set to take charge
THE cheers have hardly died since SHE'S A MANEATER swept last year's Triple Crown, yet it's time again for the Road to the Classics, starting with Saturday's 1200-metre Sir Howard and Hotline Stakes, prep races for non-winners-of-two, ahead of next month's Guineas trials, the Prince Consort and Thornbird Stakes.
Horses who didn't excel as two-year-olds, possibly breaking their maiden late in the season or early this year, get a chance to put some status beside their names before facing the likes of ANOTHER VIGOROUS and Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes winner MARQUESAS in the trials and April's 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas.
Patrick Lynch's DRONE STRIKE and Fitzroy Glispie's JAMAL JAMES are standouts in the Sir Howard Stakes. Lynch also has DISABILITY CHARM in the Hot Line Stakes for fillies going up against fast-time winners, Anthony Nunes' FASHIONISTA and Philip Feanny's SERGEANT RECKLESS.
A shrewd trainer, who literally gives away nothing in the preparation of his horses, it is not beyond Lynch to snare the double with two well-bred runners. DRONE STRIKE is a full brother to SORRENTINIO'S STAR, a former Feanny runner, who started her career as a bright two-year-old winning the Pick-3 Super Challenge Trophy before going off the rails.
DISABILITY CHARM, a Soul Warrior-Runin' On Empty offspring, has a wicked dam line coming from Triple Crown winner Simply Magic, who was thrown by that awesome United States-bred runner, Fontainbleu, a marauder of 11 races.
As his name suggests, DRONE STRIKE literally dropped from the sky on his Boxing Day debut, shocking punters at 13-1 with a late charge in the Supreme Ventures 'Super Challenge' Trophy at 1200 metres. DRONE STRIKE mowed down three horses, who all returned with head-turning victories - EL PROFESOR, FASHIONISTA and DRUMMER BOY - yet Lynch has kept his runner at home, patiently awaiting the big day.
Blinkers and tongue tie fitted, lasix to be administered, two-kilo claiming champion apprentice Anthony Thomas summoned, DRONE STRIKE appears locked and loaded for the Sir Howard Stakes after clocking 1:13.1 for the distance on debut, void of equipment and medication that afternoon.
Unlike his Boxing Day preparation which comprised a handful of half-mile gallops, none better than 50.1, Lynch showed his hand last month, putting DRONE STRIKE through a six-furlong spin in which he clocked 1:15.3, beating stablemate NOTHINGBUTTHEBEST.
If DRONE STRIKE is to be stopped, it could be Fitzroy Glispie's improved JAMALJAMES, who also has classic credentials on his bottom line, 2012 Guineas winner, She's Traditional, a 99-1 shocker with Trevor Simpson.
JAMALJAMES, however, won the 1000-metre round Stewards Cup four days after DRONE STRIKE's victory, carrying 51.0 kilos with Thomas aboard, beating SACRIFICE and KJ EXPRESS, horses who are yet to get off the mark. He now has 57.0 kilos whereas DRONE STRIKE returns at 55.0, the exact weight he used to beat subsequent winners.
In the Hot Line Stakes, Nunes' FASHIONISTA's effortless 1:05.4 for 1,100 metres, clocked January 6, the same day ZEPHYR beat SIEMPRE BUENO and MONEY MAGNET in 1:05.2, shows that she belongs in a different class, despite the improvement of SERGEANT RECKLESS and Lynch's sneaky-looking DISABILITY CHARM.