Joe Pride isn’t giving up on Rock Sturdy as a Melbourne spring carnival horse.
Despite the sprinter finishing out of the placings in the Moonga Stakes at Caulfield last week, Pride has all but committed Rock Sturdy to a quick back-up in the Filante Handicap at Randwick.
And the outcome of Saturday’s race could further shape Pride’s Group One team for the final day of the Melbourne Cup carnival with Rock Sturdy still in contention for an Emirates Stakes start and stablemate Terravista set to defend his Darley Classic crown.
“He seems to have travelled back well and there’s no reason at this stage why he won’t go around,” Pride said.
Rock Sturdy has been given 62kg but Pride will offset the impost by using apprentice Travis Wolfgram who will claim 2kg for one of his most important Sydney rides since moving from Brisbane.
Pride still harbours Emirates ambitions for Rock Sturdy because he senses the five-year-old will be more at home at Flemington than he was at Caulfield.
“I don’t think he got around Caulfield particularly well,” Pride said.
“It’s something typical of Sydney horses but having said that there have been some go down there and win. But watching the race there he didn’t look that happy.
“He got unbalanced on the corner and I think the race was over by the time he got himself together.
“With that taken into account his run was alright and I think he ran one of the fastest last sectionals of the race.”
It’s been more than 12 months since Rock Sturdy won a race but he was rated one of Sydney’s most promising sprinters as he made his way through the grades during the 2014 spring carnival.
He will be trying to win at 1600m for the first time and Pride has established a set of KPIs for the horse to match to confirm an Emirates start.
“If he wins on Saturday and wins impressively, I would definitely consider the Emirates,” the trainer said.
Rock Sturdy will face six rivals, including Casino Dancer, a surprise last-start winner of the Angst Stakes.