Trainer Darren Weir. Photo: Jesse MarlowThere’s nothing better than a cunning plan bearing fruit – especially when it’s executed through a rarely utilised loophole.
And that’s exactly what top trainer Darren Weir is hoping to achieve this Saturday when he saddles up his imported galloper High Church at Eagle Farm in Queensland.
Weir is desperate to get High Church, an ex-English galloper who last time out won the Werribee Cup, into the rich Magic Millions Stayers Cup at the Gold Coast’s big race day early in January.
That is a $10 million program with several races worth well in excess of $1 million, contests that are restricted to horses sold at the Magic Millions Yearling Sales earlier in their careers.
High Church did all his early racing in England, where he was trained by Roger Charlton to win two races over 2000 and 2400 metres when, coincidentally, he was ridden by Godolphin’s new Sydney-based English rider James Doyle.
So he couldn’t have been sold at the Magic Million Sales. So how can he run in the Stayers Cup?
Weir and his staff noticed that there was a wildcard entry available to any horse that could win the lead-up race at Eagle Farm, the Sky Racing Shoot Out Quality over 2200 metres – as long as they were not sold at public auction in or were imported from Europe.
So High Church, who was originally brought to by Lloyd Williams before being moved on to a group of Weir’s owners this spring, can sneak into the field through the imports loophole if he is good enough to score on New Year’s Eve.
“High Church gallops Wednesday morning and he will travel up Thursday night,” Weir said. “He needs to win to get in, but it’s a great chance for a horse like him to run for a big-money prize.”
Weir will have a small but select team heading north to Queensland, headed by Lucky Hussler, who won at the Magic Millions meeting last year and will be looking to repeat that performance.
One horse who won’t be joining the Weir attack on the Queensland riches is promising sprinter Speedeor, who has been sent out for a spell after a shin injury.
He had been on target for the MM Guineas race won last year by the stable’s Mahuta, but those plans have been aborted in favour of a long spell.
Speedeor had signalled his readiness for such a test when winning a Magic Millions lead-up race on Ballarat Cup Day, but Weir says that it is in the best interests of the horse to give him a decent break and have him back and firing for the spring carnival in 2017.
Weir has already trained 64 metropolitan winners this season, 19 more than his closest pursuer, the David and Ben Hayes/Tom Dabernig training partnership.
There is no sign of a let up in his pursuit of winners as he landed a hat-trick at Caulfield on Boxing Day spearheaded by useful-looking staying imports Big Duke and Plein Ciel, both of whom were ridden by apprentice of the moment Ben Allen.
Big Duke raced in England before being bought by n Bloodstock while the latter, owned by the same group, had run in Germany.
The pair look just the sort to win more races as their distances are stepped up and they work through the grades. Weir has shown on countless earlier occasions that he is a dab hand at bringing horses on progressively and keeping them fit and going through a long preparation if the right races are there for them to target.