Box 1 another group race blow for Rolph and son

Caption: Bat Sign wins at his last appearance at Albion Park. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

By Pat McLeod

Veteran Brisbane trainer Hassell Rolph grimaced audibly when told his promising chaser Bat Sign had drawn Box 1 in Thursday night’s Group 1 Garrard’s Gold Bullion heats (520m).

“Oh no, that’s not good,” he said after a long pause.

“We certainly didn’t want the one box. That is a real shame.”

While most trainers would be celebrating at being handed ‘the red’ and a boost towards a Group 1 finals position, that’s not the case for 77-year-old Rolph and his son, and fellow trainer, Stephen.

“A few times at Albion Park over the 520m he (Bat Sign) has run into serious interference at the first corner,” said Hassell.

“Now I believe he is a little bit wary coming out of the boxes, especially if he draws the inside.

“That is why we really didn’t want him out of the one box.

“If he is out wide, he has the speed to get across without feeling hemmed in on the inside.

“So, the start out of the one box is certainly a concern.”

The Rolphs have had a recent run of bad luck with the Zambora Brockie – Shilo chaser.

On December 27 he won his heat of the Group 1 Golden Sands (600m) at Albion Park. However, the kennel’s elation quickly turned to disappointment when he struggled with a mild case of acidosis after that pivotal victory.

Hassall and Stephen were forced to scratch him from the $100,000-to the-winner final, which was taken out by Fahey’s Magic for Tyson Barton.

Asked if missing that final still hurt, Stephen said: “From our perspective, the Group 1 Golden Sands final was a winnable race for us.

“That was his chance.”

Hassall added: “We certainly were disappointed at missing out on the Golden Sands final because there is no doubt 600 metres is his best distance.”

Bat Sign will contest the third of four Gold Bullion heats on Thursday night. It’s his first time back racing since the Golden Sands heat.

There will also be three heats of the Group 1 Garrard’s Gold Cup (710m) on the Thursday night Albion Park program.

Coming out of Box 8 in that third Gold Bullion heat will be last year’s winner Hello Mike (Travis Elson).

Stephen said their dog was very competitive over the 520m, with a 29.73 PB, but needed to be ‘left alone’ early.

“Hopefully, being fresh he will jump straight to the lead and be clear of them,” he said.

Hassell said although the inside draw was an issue, Bat Sign does have plenty of positives.

“He can begin quickly and is a strong dog,” he said.

“He has only had a couple of short runs behind the lure as a lead-up to this race, so not ideal, but that is not a major concern because he is such a strong dog and will find the line over the 520m very well.

“So, if he is close enough (on Thursday night) he is a chance.

“The hope then would be to get an outside box in the final.

“Obviously there will be some very good dogs through to the final and I don’t know if he could beat the likes of a Jay Is Jay, but when Bat Sign is at his top he can go very quick early.”

Jay Is Jay (Selena Zammit) will bypass the heats round after winning the Golden Ticket series and getting direct entry into the Gold Bullion final.

Each Gold Bullion heat boasts finals potential.

Victorian youngster Morton (Jessica Sharp) will return to Albion Park in Heat 1 after winning the Queensland Derby there on January 4. Also in Heat 1 is Greg Stella’s consistent group performer, Magistrate.

Travis Elson’s tenacious group racer Bear’s Bullet is back in the big-time coming out of Box 1 in the second Gold Bullion heat. The exciting Professor Snitch (Steven White) will exit Box 8.

And in Heat 4, WA’s Group 1 winner Saige Tenniele (Box 6), who is running into very good Albion Park form after a 29.61 in coming second in the Golden Ticket, appears the top pick.

Also in contention in that heat will be Mick and Selena Zammit’s All Natural, who will exit Box 2 after more than two months on the sidelines.

The main focus of the three heats of the Gold Cup (710m) will be the performance of Tony Zammit’s exciting distance star Valpolicella in the third heat.



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