Andy Gath-trained Victorian Horse of the Year Caribbean Blaster returns to racing this Friday night at Tabcorp Park but there is every chance the stable’s best trotter could upstage his pacing stablemate if Gath’s confidence is anything to go by.
Elegant Image has always been one of the best squaregaiters of his generation but he has evolved to become one of the most consistent on the open class scene this year.
A runner-up in Australia’s flagship event the Great Southern Star, he was also placed in the Bill Collins Mile and Dullard Cup.
Despite those outstanding efforts however the Long Forrest conditioner explained this week that even when the horse was performing so admirably he wasn’t at his best.
“Last time in he was never quite right, he didn’t trot 100% even though he was placed in the Great Southern Star and about three other Group 1 races,” Gath said.
“He was always just on half-power, he had a few issues with his back and his knees that were holding him back a little bit but now he’s trotting really smoothly and you can see what he can do when he puts it all together.”
Right now, Elegant Image is on fire, stringing two dominant wins together on resumption, something that looks set to continue Friday night as he arguably drops in grade.
If he continues in his current vein of form and Caribbean Blaster returns to his best form, they will both be off to the Shaky Isles towards the end of October.
“It’s pretty simple: either both go or none go. For Caribbean Blaster to perform well he needs Elegant Image to go because they’ve become really good friends,” Gath said.
“He didn’t settle into New Zealand that well last time but if his mate is with him (Elegant Image) I think he will be a lot better.”
First however, Caribbean Blaster must take on the Preux Chevalier Free For All on Friday night and his rivals are lining up to snatch back the title of Victoria’s best pacer.
Smoken Up, who was crowned last year’s Horse of the Year, and Melpark Major lead the charge but Motu Crusader will also be looking to stake his claim.
Gath has faith in the Blaster though, notoriously known as a lazy trackworker, there have been some signs of improvement this time in.
“He probably has a little bit (improved at home) but if Renaissance Man goes bad we are in trouble because he’s been beating him,” he said.
“It’s probably not an ideal draw but being first-up atleast we’re not forced to go forward. If we had have drawn five and Smoken Up was in seven then our hand would have been forced a little bit.
“He doesn’t have to burn early and then we’ve got options, he can make his own luck from back there.
“He is very fit and very well, he’s going into the race pretty close to the mark so we expect him to race close to his best.”
To read Andy Gath’s thoughts on each of the stables five runners, including the return of star juvenile Renaissance Man, just hit up the Good Form blog on Friday afternoon and check out Trainer Talk.
by Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)