Patrol on the improve

Promising three-year-old Dawn Patrol - Trish Dunell
Promising three-year-old Dawn Patrol

Trish Dunell

Frank Ritchie will make a call on Tuesday as to whether his boutique stable’s leading light will contest the feature races at Te Rapa on Saturday.  

The Cambridge trainer has already confirmed Fiscal Fantasy for the day’s main event, the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m), but he has yet to make a final decision on a start for three-year-old stablemate Dawn Patrol in the Gr.3 Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).

Whereas Fiscal Fantasy was in top form last start when winning the Gr.3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) at Awapuni, Dawn Patrol was a well-beaten hot favourite in his most recent outing, a three-year-old 1400m at Te Aroha earlier this month, after over-racing fiercely in front and weakening to eighth of the 10 starters.

A subsequent veterinary examination revealed Dawn Patrol was suffering from a minor bacterial infection and, although the problem was treated immediately, it has seriously affected his build-up to the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes.

‘’His temperature was up for a while and we just couldn’t get it down,’’ Ritchie said. 

‘’Apparently it affected one lung and he was wheezing a bit afterwards. His temperature stayed up for over a week.

‘’He is the sort of horse that if he is not feeling on his game he can do what he did at Te Aroha. He just runs. 

‘’He was off his game and, though his temperature has come right and he’s bright enough, he has put on an enormous amount of weight. I cut back his feed for that reason.

‘’He had his first gallop on Saturday morning and he’ll gallop on Tuesday morning and I’ll make a decision after that whether he runs on Saturday or not. 

‘’He needs to convince me he is fit enough. I have got to be 100 percent sure or I won’t pay up.’’

If Dawn Patrol does pass the Tuesday test, he will have to again satisfy Ritchie on Thursday morning before taking his place on Saturday.

‘’It’s going to be a top field and it’ll be a tough race,’’ Ritchie said. ‘’The next problem for me will be finding a rider because most riders have got rides in it and I can’t commit anyone until I’m sure he will start.’’

The Te Aroha failure was the first time Dawn Patrol had finished out of the first three placings in six starts. Those previous efforts included two wins and three black type placings, including a second to Madison County in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton and a third to Emily Margaret in the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham last month.

Meanwhile, Leith Innes will again ride Fiscal Fantasy in the Travis Stakes with the petite four-year-old mare set to be spelled after Saturday’s race.

“She’s been up for a long time and really in each of her last three runs I have kept thinking we won’t go much further, but after a week she keeps coming back,’’ Ritchie said.

‘’But this will be it after Saturday. She can have a well-earned spell. She had her first run this season at Hawke’s Bay (last October) and all her runs have been for good stakes and hard races.

‘She keeps surprising me. I keep saying how small she is, but she’s as tough as teak and keeps coming back for more.”

The daughter of Skilled has picked up four wins and nine placings from 18 starts. She has been in the money every start this season and been unlucky not to win more. 

“Really she should have won her last two, but this is another level up on Saturday,’’ Ritchie said.

“She deserves a crack at it and the thing with her is if it rains a bit it doesn’t worry her, as long as it’s not too much.” - NZ Racing Desk


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