Almo Street’s no muppet - and he can pull his career out of the trash can on Saturday
With a formline of 659 and no wins for exactly two years, Almo Street would seem an unlikely horse to headline of Lincoln Farms’ likely six runners at Hastings on Saturday.
But after the five-year-old turned in his best gallop this preparation at Awapuni on Tuesday, trainer Lisa Latta believes he has everything going for him in the final race.
And if you check out the record books you’ll see that Hastings is his favourite track - and that last win on July 1, 2017, was under the very same conditions he’ll get on Saturday, on a slow track in a rating 65 race over 1400 metres at the Bay.
That drop in grade is the key for Latta after Almo Street has had three races this time in against rating 72 company, the last two in footing much deeper than he likes.
His last run, in those atrocious heavy conditions at Wanganui on June 1 can be totally forgiven. And before that, on his home track, he turned in an improver’s fifth behind stablemate Lincoln Hills, doing his best work late over 1200 metres.
“We know he doesn’t like heavy tracks and it looks like he’ll get a track no worse than a slow 7 on Saturday.’’
With the easier grade comes a heavier weight, of course, but Latta has engaged Charlotte O’Beirne to bring his impost down to only 57kg.
“He’s drawn the ace and has good gate speed when he jumps so he should be able to sit right in behind the pace,” says Latta.
That ‘when he jumps’ proviso Latta mentions is a legacy of the days when Almo Street simply didn’t jump, being repeatedly banned for refusing to leave the gates.
It all looked a bit forlorn there for a while until Lincoln Farms’ owner John Street suggested Latta try a blindfold - and Almo has not transgressed since.
The barrier hoodoo is the reason Almo Street has raced only eight times in the last two years - and as a five-year-old his 13 start career has hardly given him time to show his true worth.
But the son of Alamosa, part owned by Wellfield Lodge’s Bill Gleeson, where the sire stands, has always been able to gallop.
And his final trackwork on the heavy No. 1 grass at Awapuni on Tuesday showed that when, ridden by amateur Nicole Jensen, he took time honours edging galloping partner Platinum Volos, running an even 50 seconds for 800 metres, their last 600 in 36.7.
Latta also lines up Lincoln Star in the race but believes that from an awkward draw he might struggle with a big weight.
It’s a toss up as to who gets second billing at Hastings but Lincoln Town (race eight) is a real improver.
A Trentham bog brought him undone last time but he showed his fighting qualities on debut at Awapuni in May when going under by just half a neck in a three-way finish.
Latta has reached for the blinkers on Saturday after rider Robbie Hannam reported the horse switched off too much in the running.
“He has worked very well in the hood and will get a track that suits him. This is very even maiden field and I expect him to be right in the finish.’’
Latta is confident the Tavistock three-year-old will win a race at short notice and from gate three on Saturday he will get his chance.
The form says Lincoln Hills is the one to beat in the ninth race but Latta has a leaning to stablemate Father Lenihan.
The O’Reilly four-year-old, who is being aimed at the Winter Cup at Riccarton, has been tripped by heavy tracks in his two starts since resuming.
“The better track conditions will play into his hands and I’m expecting a much improved run. He has really improved in the last fortnight and is working very well.
“Lisa Allpress will ride him and, while he jumps from a tricky barrier, he has good gate speed and can roll forward.’’
While Lincoln Hills should get a nice economical run just in behind the speed, Latta worries he might struggle over 1400 metres.
“But he has been relaxing much better in his races and he’s very well. He will give Chris Johnson a good ride.’’
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Thursday at Hastings
Race 6: Lincoln Town
“He’s drawn the outside but with the rail out 10 metres they’re only starting twelve horses and he has the gate speed to go forward so this will negate the draw. He worked nicely this morning and has continued to hold his condition well. I expect him to be right in the finish.”
Race 8: Ajay Lincoln
“He has a nice draw and the step-up to 1650 metres will suit. The track has come up a slow 8 and hopefully it will stay in that range as he will appreciate that better than the heavy ground he struck at Awapuni. He is finally starting to do things right and seems a lot more switched on. I’m expecting a better run from him.”
Saturday at New Plymouth
Race 1: Manhattan Street
“There’s a lot of rain in the forecast so the track should be very wet and loose track which is what he wants. We’re trying to get some miles into him so we can eventually run him in a hurdle. There are a couple of smart types in the race in My Gift and Obsessive but I’m expecting a better run from him.”
Race 6: Platinum Rapper
“She needed the run at Awapuni last time and her work has been very good since. We decided on going for the cup as she gets in on the minimum and it’s another chance to get black type with her. When she met Rosewood at weight-for-age at Wanganui there was a 1.5kg difference but she gets 5.5kg this time. We know from the Wanganui run that she is up to this company and, while this field is slightly stronger, I feel she can be right in the finish. The track conditions will suit her.”