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Lightweight Lopez is looking likely


Ladbrokes Park (Sandown) hosts the time-honoured Australian Steeple and Australian Hurdle on Sunday. There’s also a good benchmark 120 hurdle on the program.

The Australian Steeple is one feature race that has eluded me and the situation won’t change after this weekend as I don’t have a ride in it.

Patrick Payne’s promising ’chaser Sir Lopez has 64kg and that’s too light (by about 2kg) for me.

I’ve been on Sir Lopez in trials and schooling and I can assure you he is flying. He will really make his presence felt.

Symon Wilde’s hardy ’chaser Gold Medals is back to have another crack at the race he won in 2017. Last year he found John Salanitri’s dashing mare Don’t Be Shy a shade too strong.

Gold Medals showed through his gallant second placings in the Brierly Steeple and Grand Annual Steeple at Warrnambool that he is going as well as ever.

Grant Young’s Spying on You finished third in the Grand Annual and then enhanced the form by carrying 70.5kg to victory at Mount Gambier on May 10.

Spying on You looked a winning chance in last year’s Australian Steeple before being brought down at the second-last fence.

Henry Dwyer’s Solar Coaster looks a good lightweight contender. He missed out in a three-way photo (finishing third) to Pentomatic at Warrnambool two runs back. He then finished third on the flat at Hamilton.

Good Kid

I have a great chance to nab my third Australian Hurdle, aboard the Patrick Payne-trained Killarney Kid. My previous victories in the race have been on Some Are Bent in 2010 and Our Aristocrat the following year.

After my back-to-back successes in the Australian Hurdle, Tom Ryan went one better, winning three of the next four (Kirribilli Gold (2012), Westsouthwest (2013) and Arch Fire (2015).

Killarney Kid has been outstanding in both hurdle runs this season. He was a very short-priced favourite ($1.15) for the feature Harry D Young Hurdle at Oakbank on Easter Saturday but was scratched shortly before the race due to a minor leg problem.

He showed he’d overcome that little issue with a close fourth on the flat at Caulfield on May 11.

Hardest for us to beat on Sunday could be the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Goodwood Zodiac.

His preferred racing style (gaining a big lead) can be quite effective at Sandown. There are only two jumps from the 800m mark and that can suit those dashing flat performers.

Me and the ’Man together again

In the benchmark 120 hurdle I finally get to team up with the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Euroman.

I had ridden Euroman in schools and trials and was very excited about his prospects in a maiden hurdle at Warrnambool but Aloft ended up in the same race and I’d made a commitment to ride him.

Aloft raced well below his best and Euroman won in convincing style.

Our strongest opponent on Sunday could be Social Element, who gave a dashing on-pace display to lead all the way at the ’Bool.

Speedy — and tough

Last Sunday we had the running of the inaugural Twin Rivers Steeplechase at Casterton.

It was a fantastic race, with eight of the nine runners looking a winning chance coming to the last fence.

Trainer Patrick Payne took the honours in a thrilling finish, with the Kiwi Speedy Jax scoring at his first run over fences in Australia.

Ascot Red charged home for a third successive eye-catching placing (third). Don’t sack him — a win is not far away.

My two runners, Historic and Surging Wave, turned in contrasting efforts. Historic finished off well to be just six lengths from the winner. He will derive benefit from that. Surging Wave raced below expectations. He had an appointment with the vet this week for a full check-up. He’s certainly capable of much better.

Tara shows talent

Casterton also hosted two hurdle races last Sunday. The maiden was taken out by the Amy McDonald-trained Tara Dreaming.

After looking good in his trials, he led throughout and looks to have a bright jumping future.

I rode Danzadoozie for Symon Wilde in the open hurdle. He ran very well at his first jumps race in three years but was outlasted by the more battle-hardened Murphy’s Delight. Danzadoozie is likely to progress to ’chasing this season. He’ll go well at that.

Carnival would please me

Sunday’s Casterton meeting was very well attended. On a purely selfish level it was probably too popular! I wanted to stay in Casterton the night before the meeting but couldn’t get a bed anywhere. I had to settle for 15 minutes away in Coleraine.

Such was the success of the meeting there was talk later that it could be turned into a two-day carnival, or the Hamilton meeting that was run on the Thursday prior could be moved to Friday to create more of an “event”. Hamilton is only 50 minutes from Casterton.

Both ideas sound good to me.