While offered no favours at Wednesday’s barrier draw when allocated the wide and awkward gate 19, trainer Natalie McCall remains confident River Lad can lay a serious claim on this weekend’s featured Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm.
More than laying his claims for a position in the Stradbroke Handicap final field when strolling home to win the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) last time out, McCall said she could not be happier with the condition of the Top Echelon gelding, and the work produced over the last fortnight.
“He is really, really well,” McCall told Racing Ahead.
“We have given him his customary three weeks between runs and he has thrived once again.
“We are really happy with him going into Saturday.
“Last year he really stepped up. We brought him in at the early part of the winter carnival and the Stradbroke was sort of an afterthought and he didn’t make it there, but ever since then we have targeted this race.
“Every time we bring the horse in he seems to have matured and physically he is a much, much stronger horse than he was 12 months ago.
“Mentally we always had a bit of trouble with him, but now he is really starting to hit his straps.”
While noticeably disappointed when drawing barrier 19 for River Lad, McCall is hopeful the wide berth will allow confirmed jockey Damien Oliver to settle off the pace ahead of a late charge from 300 metres.
“He is a much better chaser and to run a nice, strong 1400 at Group 1 level especially, we will be looking to stalk the speed” McCall added.
Claiming an impressive total of 12 race wins and a further 11 minor places from 36 competitive starts to date, River Lad has been a standout performer since the 2013 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival; winning the Australia Handicap (1200m) and finishing second in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m) over the 2013/13 summer and returning for a fair run for seventh in the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m) prior to his BRC Sprint triumph.
Currently given little hope of making a claim from barrier 19 in betting markets for the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap, River Lad can be taken at a generous quote of $51 for success at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Open an account and deposit at Ladbrokes.com.au today to claim a bonus bet of up to $250!