Speed merchants set to do battle in $30,000 Group 1 Railway Sprint

Big Time Atlas was the fastest qualifier for the Group 1 Railway Sprint.

The straight-out speed merchants skipped through five competitive 318m heats to secure final field positions for this Group 1 sprint.

Emerging as the quickest qualifier was the Lisa Cole prepared Big Time Atlas ($3.30 – TAB Final Field) who completed his dash in 18.35.

“He’s a sharp sprinter, although his draw (5) has made it tricky for him. He can and he must clear the others from the traps. If he does that, then he’ll be right up there at the finish. He has done well since his heat,” advised Brendon Cole.

Big Time Zola ($5.50) stylishly pushed forward from trap-8 to take control of her heat on the turn, and then she maintained her sprint to the judge, clocking 18.61 for the Cole team.

“Her draw (2) has really brought her into contention. She sprints good at Manukau and I expect her to make her presence felt on Sunday. She has come through her heat in good order,” commented Cole.

The first heat saw the Sean Codlin-mentored Sweet Parker ($5) seizing the initiative from his kind one-trap draw to lead throughout to record 18.49 for his sprint. His mentor is rapt that his charge has drawn out in trap-eight for the decider.

“That’s perfect, exactly where I wanted him to be – I couldn’t be happier. He did a lot of donkey work in his heat and he’s pleased me since then. It’s a dream come true having a runner in both Group 1 races – Manukau is a happy hunting ground for both of them,” enthused Codlin.  

The Canterbury visitor Jerome Bale ($13) thundered home to annex his strong 18.60 heat win after being caught in a degree of early jostling for his conditioner Craig Roberts.

“That was a great run by him, considering he took three decent knocks. He went bloody good, surprising me while doing excellent work. His draw (7) shouldn’t worry him, as he normally maintains a straight line, especially if he gets underway okay,” suggested Roberts.   

The current New Zealand Sprinter of the Year and the Galaxy Sprint title holder Levi Bale ($3.20) used his known strength to rush home from a midfield position to book his final field position for Roberts when finishing 2.5 lengths behind Big Time Atlas. 

“He’s strong enough and smart enough to push his way forward (from Box 4). He’s getting older now, but he still is competitive enough to win this sprint. He just needs a little bit of early space. Both of my sprinters came through their heats as good as gold,” confirmed Roberts, who is hoping to go one better after Levi Bale finished second in last year’s Railway Sprint.

The locally based training sisters Lisa and Tracey Craik will be seeking to train their first Group 1 winner as a training partnership with Portland Craik ($10), who finished resolutely when closing to within three-quarters of a length to Sweet Parker.

“We have drawn the ally (1) that most want for a sprint, although it’s a tough ask for him in that field. We have been working on his box manners and if he can capitalise on any trouble others might get into, then yes, he can be right up there.

“He’s a young dog who has come of age – he’s a chance because of his strength,” said Lisa Craik, whose father Ben “officially” mentored the now prolific broodbitch Just One Smile to victory in the 2019 Railway Sprint final. Ben also trained the 2012 winner Snicko, while he combined with Lisa to prepare the 1997 Railway winner Stage Left. 

Local trainer Phil Green mentored Up Your Quota to victory in last year’s Railway Sprint final, and this year, he will return with El Padrino ($18) who extended strongly at the business end to snatch his 18.65 heat win.

Green does hold a concern around whether he can train back-to-back Railway winners, as he explains.

“To win a Railway final, you have to jump straight onto the early pace. Up Your Quota did that last year; however, I consider that El Padrino (3) doesn’t have the early pace to do the same.

“Don’t get me wrong, he is a very strong sprinter and if there is a bit of trouble up front, then he can capitalise on that. He will be trying his best in the final.”

With just the fastest three-second placegetters advancing, it required a ballot between the Cole trained Allegro Smudge and the Rob Roper-prepared Cappiello ($31), who was pegged back late by a neck by El Padrino, to determine who will race in the final after the pair were both credited with an 18.67 heat time, therefore tying as the third quickest second placegetters. It was Cappiello who won the ballot. 

“She has to begin smartly and if she does and there’s trouble in behind, then she can be competitive, as she’s a gutsy little bitch,” said Roper about his trap-6 drawn contender.  

Allegro Smudge ($5.50) is the first reserve after she led her heat rivals out, then she yielded over the concluding stages when she was gathered by a length by Jerome Bale. 

Occupying the second position on the reserves bench will be the Galaxy Sprint finalist Goldstar Koda ($9) for Canterbury trainer Riley Evans, after he wound up a length and a half heat second behind Big Time Zola.


Strong support race card

It is a very strong Premier meeting support card, with the obvious standout being the luckless Auckland Cup heat runner Federal Infrared, who will take her place in the $9,400 527m Winsome Ashley Trophy (Race 7).

She was brave in her Cup heat race, when after being caught up in a fair degree of jostling during the early rush for positions, she improved to get herself into a qualifying position. However, the recovery effort told on her when she wilted during the run home to finish fourth.

Another mouthwatering meeting highlight will be the clash of the stayers, with a highly competitive field of distance canine athletes accepting for the $15,000 Auckland Stayers Cup (Race 3) over the extreme 779m distance.

The field is an illustration of the even nature of the current stayers where a postrace podium case can be built for the majority of the drawn field.   


By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 25 January 2024

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