LEADING rider Anthony Thomas’ two-kilo bug will serve him well aboard SECRET TRAVELLER in Saturday’s fifth race. However, it is the apprentice’s cool head, which could have the four-year-old gelding defy a 10lb weight swing in favour of old rival MUSKETOON.
SECRET TRAVELLER is surrounded by two gangs in the seven-horse line-up: a trio of Anthony Nunes runners – A.P.I., BRUCE WAYNE and MUSKETOON – in addition to Gary Subratie’s pair, PLEASANT SECRET and REGAL PROSPECTOR.
Coincidentally, Harry Jaghai’s SECRET TRAVELLER and Subratie’s runners all have one thing in common, being owned by Robert Dabdoub’s Houston Stables.
Five-year-old HEY CHAMP has had a resurgence of form, and will relish the distance, but could be a spectator against the younger and speedier four-year-old Turks in the 1500-metre event.
SECRET TRAVELLER rallied under the tote board to beat MUSKETOON at 1400 metres on January 13. However, he had the handicaps in his favour that afternoon, carrying 117lb to MUSKETOON’s 123lb. Apprentice Odean Thomas’ two-kilo claim came in handy against Shane Ellis aboard rail-running MUSKETOON.
With the handicaps flipped, SECRET TRAVELLER now comes in at 119lb with Thomas against his arch-rival in the jockeys’ standings, Panamanian Dick Cardenas, who will partner MUSKETOON at 117lb, a weight swing of 10lb.
MUSKETOON also has a 4lb swing on his stablemate, BRUCE WAYNE, who took the shortest route into the straight last week to beat him in a driving finish at a mile.
However, the expected pace of the race could toss handicaps out the window. Everything points to MUSKETOON and BRUCE WAYNE’s stablemate, A.P.I., getting a flying start. The bred-to-sprint filly is drawn in the hole at post-position one and has front-running, lightweight jockey Wesley Henry aboard.
SECRET TRAVELLER is drawn alongside A.P.I. but has absolutely no reason to engage the filly on the lead, as forced to do by apprentice Odean Edwards in his last two races, one of which he was lucky enough to come away with a win against MUSKETOON.
With Edwards attempting similar tactics last time out, SECRET TRAVELLER ran smack into Wayne DaCosta’s classic-bound three-year-old, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, after duelling last week’s Wednesday’s return winner, SARAH LEE, on the lead for the first five furlongs in 23.3, 34.2, 46.2 and 58.0.
When WITHOUT EXCEPTION pounced off the turn with 50.5 kilos, SECRET TRAVELLER tried valiantly to rally with 53.0 kilos and held his own to the last furlong before his younger and lighter rival started pulling away for a three-length win.
Thomas had a front-row seat aboard WITHOUT EXCEPTION, watching SECRET TRAVELLER and SARAH LEE go at it. The lad’s a quick learner and has won aboard the country’s best sprinter and stayer in one afternoon, Superstakes Day.
There is enough speed for Thomas to piggyback down the backstretch before going after A.P.I. He is already drawn inside and only needs to tuck in along the rail, allowing PLEASANT SECRET and REGAL PROSPECTOR to take the fight to A.P.I., while keeping an eye on the slower pair of MUSKETTON and BRUCE WAYNE.
Ridden smartly, SECRET TRAVELLER will get the distance, having finished second behind TIME FOR ARMS at a mile on December 23, finishing ahead of DILIGENT, who returned to convincingly beat both MUSKETOON and A.P.I. in his next race.