Wellington trainer Michael Mulholland plans to use Saturday’s TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick as a platform to bigger and better things for both Foodie King and Athena’s Lad.Â
The prolific country trainer said both gallopers were ‘out and out stayers’ and that the 1600m race at Randwick was the perfect lead-in to the 1800m TAB Highway Handicap at Randwick in two Saturday’s time.
“They are both going down for the race and they are both going well,” Mulholland said.
“I am looking at that 1800m Highway in a fortnight and this is the perfect race for them. They are both out and out stayers and they will be flying home.”
Foodie King ($26) is a last start Orange winner, getting home nicely in the 1600m Class Two Handicap in heavy conditions on September 20.
Prior to the six-year-old’s Orange victory, he finished down the track at Dubbo in a 1600m Class Three Handicap on September 12 and before that, he finished sixth and was only beaten 1.5 lengths in the 1400m Class Two TAB Highway Handicap at Kembla Grange on August 28.
“I took him to that Highway at Kembla, and he only got beaten 1.5 lengths over 1400m and he was getting to line strongly,” Mulholland said.
“The Dubbo run was on a firmer track and that didn’t suit him as he likes some give in the ground and he showed that at Orange, winning strongly.”
Foodie King will likely get back from gate 15 and with Josh Parr in the saddle, Mulholland was expecting another good run.
“The gate is not ideal, but he is a backmarker, so it’s not that terrible,” Mulholland said.
“It could work in his favour. It just comes down to whether they run along or not.”
Athena’s Lad ($26) is another interesting runner and returns in this race following a 265-day injury layoff.
“We have an opinion of him. He was getting ready for the (Country) Championships last year, but he put his leg through the stable door and took it right of its hinges,” Mulholland laughed.
“He was sore in the shoulder, so we had to put him out, but he has overcome that now and he has been in work for a while.”
Jean Van Overmeire takes the ride and connections draw gate two and despite being first-up over 1600m, Mulholland suggested it wouldn’t be a query for the Albrecht gelding.
In fact, the Wellington trainer believes his five-year-old would get over more ground further into his preparation.
“It’s a tester first-up that’s for sure, but he is another dead-set 2000m horse and he should handle it,” Mulholland said.
“1400m is getting too short for him first up and hopefully he hits the line as well as we expect.”
Mulholland was leaning towards the fitter of his two runners though, tipping Foodie King to beat Athena’s Lad home on Saturday.
“I would pick Foodie King because he is rock-hard fit. Yeah, he drew a bad gate, but he will get to the line,” Mulholland said.
“I think both are good chances. I’m hoping they (the leaders) take each other on and it brings them undone as both of mine are backmarkers and should be flying home.”
Saturday’s TAB Highway Handicap, as always, is an interesting affair, attracting 17 starters and four emergencies.
Highlighting the open nature of the race, the Daiki Chujo prepared Bahamut (James McDonald) is the current $5.50 favourite, firming in from his opening quote of $8.