HEAVY tracks in Sydney in the past three weeks prompted Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott to look for alternatives for their promising galloper Sondelon.
And, they have settled on Friday's $100,000 Muswellbrook and District Workers Club Muswellbrook Gold Cup (1500m).
Three weeks ago he was to have run in the Group Two Ajax Stakes at Rosehill but the heavy track forced them to scratch him so they settled for the TAB Rewards Hcp at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.
However, they again faced a heavy track there so they decided to bypass that meeting and target the Cup instead.
"The prizemoney is good and the promise of a better racing surface convinced us we should send him to Muswellbrook," Bott said.
"He is a promising young galloper on the way up and originally we thought he would be the type of three-year-old we could aim at some nice races.
"It didn't quite work out that way so we gave him a good break and he has come back a stronger and more mature four-year-old."
At his last run before going for the break Sondelon ran seventh in the Group Three Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) at Randwick beaten only two and a quarter lengths behind Muraaqeb.
"It was a good effort and he was at the end of his preparation," Bott said.
"We have not made any plans for the horse beyond Muswellbrook, although the Scone Cup looks a good option and fits in nicely with his preparation."
Sondelon has had three runs since resuming and at his last start led all the way to score a relatively soft win over 1500m at Rosehill on February 27 after leading all the way from an inside barrier.
He has barrier three in the Cup.
Sydney's James Innes junior, who won the Bathurst Cup on Chocolatier for Waterhouse and Bott earlier this month, will ride Sondelon.
The TAB has Sondelon a firm favourite for the Cup at $2.50 ahead of last year's Country Championships Wild Card winner Don't Give A Damn at $5.50.
The only other runners at single figures are Invicta, trained at Gosford by Kerry Parker, and the Ross Stitt-trained Blinkin Artie, both at $8.
Goulburn-based trainer Danny Williams is still in two minds where to run Don't Give A Damn and has accepted for two races at Rosehill on Saturday, including the Doncaster Prelude, as well as the Cup.
Track conditions will play a big part in his decision and If the horse runs in the Cup he will be ridden by Chad Lever.
If Don't Give A Damn does start Williams is confident he will be the horse to beat.
"I have never had him in better shape and the top weight won't worry him," he said.
"He is a big, strong horse and has carried bigger weights than that.
"There is also the advantage that he has raced at Muswellbrook."
A win by Blinkin Artie, to be ridden by Andrew Adkins, would give trainer Ross Stitt his second Muswellbrook Cup after winning the race in 2004 with Precise Timing.
Stitt is confident his horse will run a big race.
"He has the right weight, the right barrier, the right jockey and he has had the right preparation so it's up to the horse now," he said.
Stitt trained Blinkin Artie for his long-time friend and client, the late Errol French, but when he died Stitt and close family friend Kerrie Hollis bought the horse.
Blinkin Artie has a win and three placings to his credit this preparation including a last start second over 1300m at Rosehill four weeks ago.
Jockey Robert Thompson, the punters friend as Australia's most winning jockey, has ridden Invicta at his past two starts for a win over 1600m at Newcastle and a second over the same distance at Wyong.
1-1.50, TAB.COM.AU MAIDEN HCP, 1280m: GALINA 1, Aytobe 2, Friendly Venture 3, Palais De Louvre 4
2-2.25, MONEATH AND POWYS CLASS TWO, 1450m: DUBLIN DIVA 1, Nitride 2, Angel Of Heaven 3, Bid'N'Bare 4
3-3.05, TWO RIVERS WINE BENCHMARK 58, 1750m: HARBOURING 1, Azarose 2, Zizania 3, Dynamic Dynasty 4
4-3.40, PRIME 7 SPRINT CLASS ONE, 1000m: THE RUNNER 1, Hard Reality 2, Thiswilldous 3, Timion 4
5-4.20, BHP MT ARTHUR COAL WAYNE HARRIS HCP, 1280m: ROMAN TYPHOON 1, Ori On Fire 2, Star Shaft 3, It's So Obvious 4
6-4.55, HORSEPOWER SKELLATAR SPRINT, 1000m: FALERINA 1, I Am A Cool Kid 2, Don' Tease Me 3, Just a Bullet 4
7-5.30, MUSWELLBROOK WORKERS CLUB MUSWELLBROOK GOLD CUP, 1500m: SONDELON 1, Don't Give A Damn 2, Blinkin Artie 3, Great Job 4
8-6.05, ALLWELD SERVICES BENCHMARK 58, 1280m: BAAED 1, King Mombassa 2, Rothman 3, Velocano 4
Best Bets: The Runner, Falerina
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