Cross Talk relishes the Challenge of Listed feature

Cross Talk wins 2022 Winter Challenge
Cross Talk raised the bar to claim the Listed Winter Challenge at Rosehill Gardens. (Photo: Steve Hart)

The rescheduled Listed Winter Challenge could not have played into the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Cross Talk’s hands anymore than what it did at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday afternoon.

Originally scheduled for last weekend at Royal Randwick, the $160,000 race had to wait seven days due to wet weather, which reopened nominations, allowing Cross Talk to start in the race.

Sent out as a $2.60 favourite with online bookmakers, the four-year-old gelding didn’t let anything else get a look in, leading all of the way to beat Toomuchtobear and Gold Trip by a convincing two lengths under Jean Van Overmeire.

2022 Winter Challenge Replay

Co-trainer Adrian Bott told Sky Racing that the son of Keano has met the challenge they have set for him with open arms every time, so an exciting 12 months is on the agenda.

“Every time we’ve challenged him, he’s really come back strongly and today he’s done it again,” Bott said.

“I think we’re starting to work him out a little bit. I think he races that little bit better fresh with his runs spaced, he’s had those three weeks between his last couple of starts and its worked out well for him.

“We didn’t necessarily intent on being in this particular race today, and we tested him against this grade a little bit quicker than what we thought so we might have to have a rethink about what we do next.

“That’s certainly very encouraging for us going forward.”

Given that Cross Talk started his campaign in late May, a big spring carnival is unlikely, but it allows the powerhouse stable to really map out a plan towards next year’s Doncaster Mile – a race Waterhouse has won seven times.

With the increased prizemoney on offer and ballot exemption for the Doncaster up for grabs in December’s Villiers Stakes, Bott says that is likely to be his target in 2022.

“Whether at the end of the year he might be a nice type for a race like the Villiers now with the prizemoney that’s there,” he said.

“I think he’s going to be a really strong miler for us, and potentially stretch him out in trip – he’s got that lovely high cruising speed.

“He’s been up a while now, so I’m not sure how long we can keep him up through and into the spring, but we will see how he pulls up and have a look at the program, dissect the race, analyse it and go from there.”

Catching the eye back in third was the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Gold Trip, who after being scratched from the 2021 Cox Plate, made his long-awaited Australian debut.

The French import had to carry 61kg in his first-up run, but he hit the line strongly to finish 3.4 lengths away from the winner.

Gold Trip remained solid in betting with Australian betting sites at $26 for the 2022 Cox Plate, while he is also a $26 chance for the first Group 1 of the new season – the Winx Stakes (1400m), which will be run on August 20.

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