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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Our runners this week
Saturday at Trentham
Platinum Invador, Platinum Dubai, Princess Amelie, Johnny Lincoln, Lincoln Dreamer, Platinum Bordeaux.
Our runners this week: How our trainer rates them
Thursday at Woodville
Race 2: Ajay Lincoln
“He has a wide draw but will come in a lot when the ballots come out. The track looks like it will be more suitable, in the dead range. It will be good to get this race into him and then step him up to a middle distance as Robbie has always felt he would be better over a longer distance. I am expecting a far better run on an improved track.”
Race 3: Lincoln Star
“He has trained on well since his good run at Hastings. The outside draw doesn’t help but we will be positive, go forward, and try to get some cover. He has continued to work well and, with luck, he should be in the finish.”