Alligator Blood, the reigning Queensland Racing Horse Of The Year, will carry his home state’s hopes in the $7.5 million Golden Eagle at Rosehill on Saturday.
The David Vandyke trained son of All Too Hard basically swept all before him during a concentrated three-year-old campaign which reached a high point with back to back successes at Flemington in February when he outgunned Catalyst in the Group 3, C S Hayes before reaching the summit with a triumph in the Group 1 Australian Guineas, when beating Superstorm by 1,25 lengths … but his return as a four-year-old has, to date, posed as many questions as answers.
Vandyke, for one, has been ultra-cautious in his assessment of his charge throughout this latest campaign giving him a pass-mark, and nothing more, for his efforts to date this time in. That certainly doesn’t mean that Alligator Blood will not take progressive improvement into the Golden Eagle, which has always been set up as his grand-final, but, whatever the final outcome, Alligator Blood will not go into the race this time with the dominating presence which characterised so much of his three-year-old career.
Jockey Ryan Maloney gave his thoughts on Alligator Blood’s performances this season (he has only had two starts) and of the horse’s current form status, as he sees it, a couple of day’s out from the big race.
“I was really happy with his first-up run at Doomben.” (Alligator Blood ran on well into third place carrying 61kg over a distance … 1100m … well short of his best).
“Next start, in the Silver Eagle, I was probably a bit disappointed. Firstly, he did knuckle badly out of the gates and pulled up average behind,” continued Maloney.
“I was a bit concerned in the straight. He had his head cocked to one side which tells me that he wasn’t comfortable at all. In hindsight, it was still a good run really.
“Probably the only concern for Saturday is whether he handles the track or not. He has never been on a heavy track. The softest he has been on was at Flemington when they said it was soft 6, but, in my experience, it was only probably dead, or on the worst side of dead.”
Some of the runners do go into the race with the ‘heavy’ going box ticked … Chris Waller’s Funstar has won two out of three on heavy going and Godolphin’s Colette is two from two on a heavy surface so, even if he copes with going, Alligator Blood will have a job on his hands.
And what about the wide draw?
“It’s not ideal,” answered Maloney, “but, having said that the are horse with chances, notable the favourite Funstar, who have drawn outside us.
“At Rosehill, when it is a heavy track, they generally get away from the fence. By race-day we will certainly know where we are going, that’s for sure.
“David (Vandyke) has given me a free rein. I’m not going to wing it … but it all depends on how Alligator Blood jumps. He hasn’t been jumping cleanly this time in. Being out there he is probably not going to be in the gates for too long. Ideally, I’d like to settle in the first half of the field.”
And, summing up?
“I guess things haven’t really gone to script so far. He did have a long, strenuous campaign last time in and there probably is a question mark as to whether he has or hasn’t come back one hundred percent?
“Because of the current situation, David hasn’t been able to be down there with the horse either. He is so hands on normally … he knows the horse best … so he probably would have be able to answer that question if he was with the horse.
“In any event, we are going to find out more on Saturday.”