Sydney winter riches draw strong opposition

Trainers now need a very good horse to win during the winter such is the depth of quality, and Matthew Smith hopes Astero fits the bill at Rosehill.

Not so long ago a trainer could bring an above average horse to the races at this time of the year and bank on a win.

Matthew Smith’s Zoustar three-year-old Astero is certainly a horse who is going places after establishing a handy record so far.

It’s included back-to-back wins this preparation at the provincials and now it’s time to come to the big smoke.

Smith explained what racing in Sydney out of season was like now ­compared to 10 years ago.

“It’s chalk and cheese,” he said.

“They’re so strong now. Even these races on Saturday have some nice ­horses in them.

“They still have to be handy to win even though we’re out of season. If he was to step up and win that, we’ll know he’s pretty handy.”

The extra prizemoney for normal Saturday races in Sydney has a lot to do with the depth of fields each week and if a runner is a BOBS horse a win is worth $78,000.

“It’s bloody amazing money but it’s also pretty tough here,” Smith said.

“Trainers are just trying to maximise the return to their owners in Sydney racing which has to be the most ­competitive in Australia.

“It’s a reflection on the quality of horses that have been purchased and are going into good stables.

“As a trainer you need to find where your horses fit in and plan around that.”

And Smith is hoping Astero fits in to Sydney racing on Saturday when he races in a Benchmark 71 Handicap (1400m) after good wins as a $2.90 chance and $1.70 hope this time in.

“He looks all right, doesn’t he?” Smith said.

“He’ll need to be promising, to be fair, to win that race because it doesn’t look like a bad race. It’s a solid one.

“I always thought he’d be a nice horse but he’ll be better again next time in. He’ll present well on Saturday and will need to be handy to win it.”

Smith said Astero was definitely progressive and he’s just getting better as he matures and he was once a very immature horse.

He’s been one of the late developers but he’s in good shape and Jay Ford rides him from barrier four where he should get the run of the race.

“He showed good ability last time in but he was a little bit on the weak side and immature,” Smith said.

“He’ll get into a good spot from the draw. He seems to handle he wet ground too.

“He’s also won on a good track but handling a wet track is a big advantage at this time of the year.”

And if he comes out and runs up to expectations as a $6 chance, Smith will look to find a stronger race at the end of Brisbane’s winter carnival.

“That’s what I was thinking,” he said.

“If he happened to come out and win or run very well then we’d have to look at something better up there, maybe the Guineas. You don’t know at this point how good he’ll end up.”

Smith is giving Sweet Thomas his final lead-up run before the Brisbane Cup in Saturday’s feature, the Listed Winter Cup (2400m).

He’s had a trial since running seventh in a stronger Gosford Cup (2100m) first-up.

“I thought he ran well last time and he’s ticking along great,” Smith said.

“He’s getting ready for a few two-mile races. This could be too short for him on Saturday but he’ll still run well.

“We might send him up to Brisbane next week for a two-mile race.”

Smith has three entered in the 1800m race near the end of the day and Milk Man is the number one seed off a top run over a mile at Doomben last start.

He came from 13th at the 800m to run within a length of Cloak for third.

“I thought it was a good effort,” Smith said.

“He’s going along well and he’s at the right trip now and loves wet tracks so I’m pretty comfortable on where he’s up to and he looks well.

“He’s drawn a bit awkward (11) so I’m not sure where he’ll end up from the gate against a big field.”

“We rode him quiet the other day but he was a bit keen in the blinkers.”

Smith would like to get Monreal to the Stayers Cup (3200m) at the end of the month while he’s interested to see how Flambeur goes on his Australian debut.

“I don’t have any huge expectations first-up. This is a learning preparation so we’ll give him a couple of runs and see where he’s up to,” he said.

“His record is pretty good overseas and he’ll probably run better over more ground at his next start.

“The horse is doing really well.”

Caesar to seize chance at Rosehill

The true ability of Caesars Palace is on show these days after a tumultuous start and trainer Anthony Cummings is confident he can progress to a city winner at Rosehill on Saturday.

The Casino Prince three-year-old is shooting for a hat-trick of wins in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1800m) after victories at Goulburn and Newcastle over 1615m and 1880m.

Cummings was asked how the horse would handle the step up to metropolitan racing.

“I think he’ll be fine,” he said.

“He’s had a nice progression through his grades and this is the next logical step. The distance has shown itself to be pretty comfortable for him and I don’t think that’s going to change.

“He’s got a bit of a weight to carry (57kg) but he’s done that a few times and it doesn’t seem to worry him so I think he’s in this as one of the main chances. A wet or a dry track doesn’t bother him.”

Caesars Palace started off his career with 11th and fifth placings, and then came back from a let-up with a third and seventh placing.

“His track work has always been of a high standard and his barrier trials were great so he went to the races with a good reputation but he just got in his own way,’’ Cummings said.

“The penny has dropped as a gelding and he’s performed because of it.”

While Cummings is excited about Caesars Palace’s race, he’s not keen to chase a richer prize with him in Queensland should he win again.

Like all Cummings men, he’s playing the long game and expects his horse to be much better next time in.

He is however, already displaying very encouraging signs which Jason Collett can take advantage of from barrier four and get the run of the race.

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