Stephen Ralph doesn’t want to appear greedy.
The Waikato trainer has leading chances in two feature races at Awapuni on Saturday and while he believes he has the firepower to win both, he said he’s willing to settle for either one.
“One will be fine, though I really do think we can win them both,” he said. “We can’t be too greedy.”
Ralph has Thenamesbond in prime order for the LJ Hooker Manawatu Steeplechase (4200m) and will also produce in-form galloper Admiral in the Winstone Wallboards Handicap (1500m).
The Te Kowhai-based Ralph, who trains from the Te Awamutu racetrack, believes reverting to front-running tactics with Thenamesbond should see the winner of 10 jumps races back to his best.
“We’re really pleased with him. We let him settle back at Trentham and let The Big Opal take control but he just got too far back,” Ralph said.
“He goes through a flat patch between the 800 and 600m as it is and he was fifth turning on to the course proper so for him to run home and nearly finish third, it was a big effort.
“He’s very competitive from out in front and we think we’ll just run our own race this weekend. His fitness is right where we want it and we think the change in tactics should make all the difference.
“We know Wise Men Say is a good horse and we’d like to get him out of his comfort zone. Our horse is a good frontrunner and he can make it so those back runners have to get going a lot sooner than they want to.”
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Ralph with Thenamesbond, having overcome niggling shoulder problems that had plagued previous campaigns.
They resurfaced early in the autumn along with front joint issues after the nine-year-old botched a jump in the Ken & Roger Browne Memorial Steeples (3900m) at Te Rapa in his first run for the winter last month.
“Going into this one, he’s really well. There’s no soreness and he’s at peak fitness so we think he’ll take some beating this weekend,” Ralph said.
Safely through Saturday’s race, Thenamesbond will progress to the Animal Health Direct Hawke’s Bay Steeples (4800m) at Hastings on June 30, with Hesalljazz a likely travelling companion for the Te Whangai Hawke’s Bay Hurdles (3100m).
Ralph also believes Saturday’s 1500m open handicap is ripe for the picking for the stable’s flat star, Admiral.
A five-length winner of the Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe last season, Admiral was fourth in the Group 2 Easter Handicap (1600m) at Pukekohe before winning over 1560m at Rotorua and finishing second to Doiknowyou over 2060m at Wanganui last start.
“He’s a proven miler and he can go too hard in those staying races,” Ralph said.
“He went from winning a Rating 85 to carrying 58kg in open company which wasn’t easy either. We’re hoping he can really sort them out on Saturday. His work has been right where it should be and we’re pretty confident with him.”
Admiral holds an entry for the Group 3 eStar Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton on August 4. Ralph has Red Tsunami, Bugs Moran and Armaguard all entered for Awapuni on Saturday but Bugs Moran could yet be saved for Pukekohe next Wednesday and Armaguard could stay north and race at Te Awamutu on Sunday.