Trainer Trevor Andrews is confident The River will be at his peak in WA racing’s richest race for juveniles: the Group 2 $500,000 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) at Ascot on Saturday.
The Ascot horseman is aiming to replicate last year’s successful formula when his powerful Oratorio colt, Lucky Street, cemented his reputation as the best two-year-old of the season
Lucky Street set the standard when he won the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m)-Perth Stakes (1100m) double before romping home by a big margin in the Karrakatta Plate.
The imposing juvenile set the pace and won by 4 ½ lengths, giving Andrews his second success in the sprinting feature and setting history by becoming the first horse to win the Magic Millions Classic-Karrakatta Plate double.
This year’s crop of two-year-olds is arguably stronger than last season, but The River holds favouritism after impressive wins in the Magic Millions at Pinjarra and the Perth Stakes when he revealed fighting qualities.
Ridden by regular jockey, Shaun McGruddy, the son of Magnus sat off the pace and dug in for the battle before overhauling Karrakatta Plate rival, Atacama Sky, by a head margin in the shadows of the post.
“I expect him to improve on that run,” Andrews said on Tabradio.
“He had a strong gallop on Tuesday and Shaun (McGruddy) has been really pleased.
“His fitness seems to be where I want it and he is very sound.
“He just has to stay out of trouble until the race.”
In a field of 13 starters The River was given a major boost when he drew perfectly in barrier six.
Key rivals, Atacama Sky (12), Whispering Brook (11) and Spangled Impact (13) were dealt blows after drawing wide.
“The way the race looks from a speed map I expect him to go forward and hopefully get in one off the fence and fourth to sixth position,” Andrews said.
“You want to be drawing good gates in these types of races.”
Andrews is on the hunt for three Karrakatta Plates and McGruddy his second after they combined with Luke’s Luck in 2012.
Simon Miller is certain to exert a strong influence in the race with five starters: Atacama Sky, Swedish Memories, Speeding Comet, Whispering Brook and Caipirinha.
Whispering Brook is unbeaten and despite a wide draw she will come under the attention of punters after wins in the Supremacy Stakes (1100m) and Gimcrack Stakes (1100m).
The TAB has the Hinchinbrook filly, who will be ridden by, Peter Knuckey, at $5.50. The River is the $3.30 favourite.
Saul’s Special ($6), Atacama Sky ($7), Speeding Comet ($8.50) and Spangled Impact ($9) are in single figure odds.
RWWA: Julio Santarelli