Image: Steve Hart
John O’Shea is keeping an open mind on Autumn Carnival plans for Benaud, whose early campaign will be crucial in determining which races he targets.
The talented four-year-old kept his footing in the spring, finishing just behind the placegetters in the Seaside and Chelmsford Stakes and runner-up in the Kingston Town Stakes before his Caulfield Cup prospects were brutalized by an outside draw.
“He’s a really nice, progressive horse,” said O’Shea.
“In the Caulfield Cup we drew 24 and he came last in a slow going race, so forget he got around.”
Benaud charmed after the Caulfield Cup and took his first step towards a comeback with a quiet handicap test at Rosehill on Friday.
He is likely to have one more test before kicking off his campaign in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on 25 February, with his second-up performance in the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) It will be a defining campaign. ,
O’Shea said “He’ll go up in a ten furlong race two weeks after (Chipping Norton), it determines the weights and penalties, and then we’ll assess from there.”
“Whether he goes to the BMW (Tancred Stakes) and goes on to the Sydney Cup, I’m not sure.
“I want to go to that race and make the call.”
Stablemate Quantico turned up in the same test on Friday, working hard behind a wall of horses.
She is on a comeback trail and has not raced since last year’s Group 1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington in March, with O’Shea looking to get her up and capitalizing on strong tracks during late summer and early autumn Have to run fast.
“He picked up a bit of pain after Newmarket and we had to give him a good break,” said O’Shea.
“It didn’t make sense to bring him back in the early spring because it was wet, so we left him outside.
“Knowing that he is more effective in the early part of the year when the tracks are dry, it has been a strategy to get him (prepared earlier and) on better ground.”
Quantico is likely to resume in the Southern Cross Stakes (1200m) at Randwick in two weeks, while O’Shea’s top-class runner Lost and Running will be welcomed into the barn this week.
“He’s going to be back in the stable on Monday and will run first at Galaxy,” said O’Shea.
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