Ground Control to Major Thomas: Can he really make the grade - without a whip?
In a move which trainer Ray Green hopes will turn around the form of Major Thomas, his driver will not be carrying a whip in the opening race at Cambridge on Thursday night.
The Art Major three-year-old, a recent additon to Lincoln Farms’ team, has yet to finish closer than fifth in seven starts and beat only one home in his first start for Green three weeks ago.
But, crucially, they’ve worked out that Phil Cook’s three-year-old really resents the whip and simply refuses to try his best if shown the persuader.
“Even a little flick on the arse is enough to change his mind,” says Green. “So we’ll be trying no whip on Thursday night.”
Green hadn’t been expecting much from Major Thomas at Cambridge on January 7 given he was well short of race fitness and drew the outside of the gate.
Taken back at the start by driver Zachary Butcher he raced three deep on the markers, was badly held up across the top bend by a tiring runner and had to come four wide turning for home.
Green says given the trip it was hard to condemn the horse for finishing 11 lengths behind clearcut winner Mitch. Major Thomas was only two and a half lengths from third-placed Sly Terror and he paced a respectable 2:43.5.
“He needed the run first-up and he’s had a lot of work since.”
Last Saturday, at the Pukekohe workouts, Major Thomas showed he had improved when, after trailing early, he led for the last 1200 metres of his 2050 metre heat, beating race winner Dalvey Robyn.
“He’s just a horse - I don’t think there’s any Interdominion glory there - but this is a good opportunity for him to win one. It’s a much weaker field this time and he’s drawn well.”
Stablemate Arden’s Illusion, who debuts from four on the gate outside Major Thomas, had to be scratched last week when he developed a little foot abscess but Green says he’s good to go now.
“He’s no champion either - he’s only a little fella and he’s a work in progress. This will be a real learning curve for him and everyone else.”
Stable junior Monika Ranger, who had her first racenight drive behind Call Me Trouble last week, takes the reins and Green says he’s not a difficult horse to drive.
Ranger piloted Arden’s Illusion in his lastest workout at Pukekohe when he finished third behind the useful Holyrood who clocked a 2:01.1 mile rate, more than three seconds faster than Major Thomas took in his heat.
Green says the Bettor’s Delight colt is from a good family so he expects him to eventually make the grade.
“All the family have won races so I don’t see why he’ll be any different.”
Arden’s Illusion’s dam Tricky Woman has had four to the races for four winners. He is a full brother to Bettor To Be Tricky (22 wins), Copperfield (6 wins) and Bettor Trix (2 wins).
His grand dam Super Smooth left numerous winners, the best long time national mile record holder Scuse Me, the mother of champion filly Adore Me and a host of other good performers.
The colt is raced by Lincoln Farms’ John and Lynne Street, David Turner, Phil Kelly, Steve MacDonald, Wayne Seebeck and Chris Prutton and Waikato’s Four Legs Syndicate who had so much success with Northview Hustler.
Green says you can’t fault what Bet On The Tiger has done recently and he must be a chance again in the third race even from the outside of the second row.
“He’s run four good races in a row and been able to lead comfortably in his last three. That won’t happen this time so we’ll see how he goes in behind.
“He’s a nice horse who tries hard and he’s on the improve. He’ll go another good race and just needs a bit of luck. If he gets a decent run he’ll be right in it.”
Bet On The Tiger easily beat debutant Crusader last week, albeit in a slow 2:46.9, and is the equal highest rated horse in the field on Thursday with Dalvey Robyn.
Major Grace rounds out an early night for Lincoln Farms in the fourth race, also drawn on the second row.
But Green says that might actually help the filly.
“If she gets a good suck along from inside the second row she could run into the money. Maurice (McKendry) thought she went quite well last time.”
Major Grace was checked into a gallop after only a few hundred metres last week, settling last on the inner. But she made up good ground along the markers in the home stretch for sixth, only 4.2 lengths from the winner Destiny’s Child.
“We’ll see how she goes this week. If she doesn’t improve we’ll dump her out for a break.”
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Our runners this week
Saturday night at Albion Park
Our runners this week: How our trainer rates them
Friday night at Auckland
Race 2: Frisco Bay
“He obviously needed the run last week. He pulled his way round the field and sat outside the leader but he couldn’t cop a run like that first-up and got tired. The ability is there, whether he’s fit enough or not we’ll find out. But I expect him to go well, the three draw is much better than last week.”
Race 2: Lenny Lincoln
“He’ll probably need a race but he’s capable of running a slot. He’s unlucky not to have won a race, all three of his seconds were good. He’s got a bit better with each of his trials this time in and he got home well last Saturday, after coming widest on the turn.”
Race 3: Obadiah Dragon
“The way the race was run at Cambridge last week, his effort wasn’t bad at all. Moni (Monika Ranger) said he felt strong and, if he’d been a few slots closer, he would have been right in it. He’ll be improved for the run.”
Race 3: Leo Lincoln
“He’s very consistent - he’s only missed a couple of cheques. But he’s another just coming back and should improve with the run.”