Frank Ritchie knows he will never train the likes of Bonecrusher again but the New Zealand horseman is happy to keep his hand in with an albeit smaller stable.
Ritchie farewelled Bonecrusher on Thursday when the nine-time Group One winner was euthanised at the age of 32 after suffering the effects of laminitis.
The winner of nine Group One races including the 1986 Cox Plate when he beat Our Waverley Star in a stirring battle at Moonee Valley, Bonecrusher spent his retirement days on owners Peter and Shirley Mitchell’s property south of Auckland with Ritchie a regular visitor.
Ritchie will be back in Australia on Saturday to saddle up Bachelor Zeel in the Ipswich Cup (2150m), a far cry from the major Sydney or Melbourne features but one the trainer hopes is within reach of the recently gelded five-year-old.
“He is a nice horse but he is not up to Sydney or Melbourne races,” Ritchie said.
“We decided to bring him over to Queensland because we think he may be able to reach that level.
“He handles soft tracks but the New Zealand tracks get heavy in winter so he would be hard to place at home.”
Bachelor Zeel has won two of his 11 starts in a career interrupted by almost a year off because of knee and shoulder problems.
When he resumed from his long break, Bachelor Zeel ran midfield, beaten less than three lengths, over 1600m at Te Rapa which encouraged Ritchie and his owners to target Queensland.
They have the Group Three Tatt’s Cup at the Gold Coast on June 20 as his mission but he will probably need to run well to make the field.
His trainer was not too fazed by Bachelor Zeel’s seventh over 1800m at the Sunshine Coast on June 3 after a direct flight was cancelled and the horse had to be flown to Sydney and endure a float trip north.
South Australian galloper Baligari ($4.80) holds a narrow call as Ipswich Cup favourite over the Chris Waller-trained Danchai ($5).
Baligari has raced twice during the Brisbane winter carnival but Danchai heads to Queensland for the first time this year after a last-start Rosehill placing.