Run Thatcher Run gearing up for Guineas
INSTEAD of dilly-dallying, detailing how far STRANGER DANGER will win the fifth event on tomorrow's anaemic 10-race programme - racing among three stablemates, filler-of-the-year, SECRET TRAVELLER, and HOUDINI'S MAGIC - a review of RUN THATCHER RUN's Guineas warm-up are words better spent with the season's first classics a little under two weeks away.
Out for the second time in a week, after trainer Wayne DaCosta rushed the champion two-year-old of last season back into training, coming off a procedure to treat bucked shins, RUN THATCHER RUN got no favours from his 14 rivals in a truly run race at seven and a half furlongs.
Backed at speculative odds of 4-5, RUN THATCHER RUN turned back a determined challenge from United States-bred six-year-old, SARATOGA SIGHT, and a late flurry from a somewhat unlucky rail-running MASTER OF HALL, passing his 2000 Guineas test by a neck in 1:32.2.
"I liked how he performed today," said Omar Walker, the leading rider, who moved his tally to 23, six clear of apprentice Christopher Mamdeen, after earlier booting home back-to-back winners - LEGALITY for Philip Feanny and the first of two wins for DaCosta, MADAM SECRETARY in the sixth.
"He is not a hundred per cent as yet but this race will get him there. He ran a nice race today and was lighter in his body," added Walker, who was aboard the unbeaten colt the previous week when he made his seasonal debut with a workmanlike victory at six furlongs.
JAMAI RAJA, an 86-1 shot, was ridden to lead from the gate, soon pressed by another outsider, 99-1 longshot, UNCLE VINNIE, the supposed rabbit for stablemate SARATOGA SIGHT, while Walker settled RUN THATCHER RUN in third place, off opening splits of 23.3 and 46.3.
As if on cue, SARATOGA SIGHT darted around rivals under Dane Nelson from his wide draw to join RUN THATCHER RUN three furlongs out, hoping to catch Walker flat-footed. However, the six-time former champion jockey was alert and made his move simultaneously as the two favourites swung abreast into the lane.
As the pair straightened, SARATOGA SIGHT beared down on RUN THATCHER RUN, sparking a brief bumping match in mid-track. With both horses locked in a prolonged stretch battle, RUN THATCHER RUN started inching away, but was soon challenged by far-striding MASTER OF HALL, who got a ground-saving rail run, making up for lengths lost at the half-mile.
With SARATOGA SIGHT still looming large on his outside and MASTER OF HALL inside, Walker cautiously resorted to a hand ride, warding off twin challenges with the margins being a neck by three-quarter length at the end.
DaCosta afterwards said he was pleased with RUN THATCHER RUN's gutsy performance ahead of 2000 Guineas Day, set for Sunday, April 14.
"He ran a courageous race. The instruction was to sit off the pace and make his move. He is not a quitter. He is a fighter," he said.
The plot has been set for Guineas weekend, another DaCosta-Nunes showdown, with DaCosta's LADY BLUE facing Nunes' fillies' brigade led by I AM DI ONE, who has been catching birds at exercise, plus stablemates CORAZON and PRINCESS AVA.
In the 2000 Guineas, the heat will be on as Ian Parsard's lightning-fast FATHER PATRICK will have the rival camps adjusting tactics, which will certainly suit Nunes' stayer, SUPREME SOUL, who only lost the Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes at the same distance by a half-length to RUN THATCHER RUN.