Arch Fire is on target for his shot at back-to-back Australian Hurdle wins, but trainer Robert Smerdon admits he faces a task turning the tables on Gingerboy.
Arch Fire is equal topweight among the 10 nominations for Saturday’s Australian Hurdle (3400m) at Sandown and has 1kg more than the Darren Weir-trained Galleywood Hurdle winner Gingerboy.
“Arch Fire is in good shape but there’s always newcomers on the block and Weiry’s horse is the one who has had his measure comfortably in their first two encounters,” Smerdon said.
Arch Fire moved up at the final hurdle in the Galleywood this month to issue a challenge but Gingerboy went on to beat him by four lengths.
Gingerboy beat Arch Fire by six lengths in a hurdle at Sandown earlier this season on a good track but Arch Fire meets him 5kg better from that race and 2.5kg better from the Galleywood, which was run on heavy ground.
“We do meet him better at the weights, but his win at Warrnambool was so dominant that you would need something else in your favour to turn the tables, I think,” Smerdon said.
Smerdon believes Arch Fire is fitter again and hopes that, as well as the forecast for rain, helps his chances.
“With the forecast rain it could be quite a testing track and I’m hoping that will work in our favour,” Smerdon said.
“But in saying that Gingerboy seems to get through it and has loads of stamina.”
Arch Fire won the Australian with 64kg last year.
Since this month’s Galleywood he has had a race on the flat and won a jumps trial.
“He’s continued to get more solid in fitness,” Smerdon said.
Jamie Mott takes the ride on Arch Fire, while the trainer is in two minds whether last-start Ballarat winner Hucknall runs in Saturday’s Australian Steeplechase.
Smerdon said weights were against Hucknall.
“At this stage I suppose we’ll declare for the race and then decide later on whether we run or not,” he said.