Cumani quest to discover weapons of War
MATT Cumani is likely to take a conservative approach with rejuvenated Declares War, hinting the temptation of chasing Queensland Derby glory could be doused by long-term goals.
Completing an unlikely full circle with the gelding, Cumani regained the three-year-old he bought as a yearling after Darren Weir's disqualification in February.
"As fate happens, he came back to us," Cumani said, explaining there was an issue with the ownership, prompting Weir to take out 25 per cent.
Cumani said Weir considered Declares War a serious staying talent but the gelding's recent form slump created doubts.
"Darren used to always think he was stayer and I think that's why we always had the Derby in mind," Cumani said.
"I was a bit dubious after his first few starts, but that was pretty solid there today."
Declares War lost form after stringing together a hat-trick of wins late last year.
When Cumani regained the horse in February, he failed to perform and was gelded.
"It's been a bit of a slog really," Cumani said. "There were a few things that weren't quite working for him but he's gelded and come back still a big, strong and powerful horse.
"This is probably a step down to what he was challenging for earlier in the prep so we've got to keep that in mind.
"But I think he'll improve into next year and I think he'll improve with a spell. So that would be my preference.
"He's a horse still developing, I think. He's getting his running style. Some of his starts pre-gelding were too bad to be true.
"We just weren't seeing that finish so we're assuming the gelding has done the trick."
Superbly ridden by Jye McNeil, Declares War shouldered 60kg to victory in the Mahogany Challenge Handicap (2000m) in a timely reminder of his 2018 form.
But Cumani is urging caution about where to go next.
"We'll have a chat to the group but I think you've probably got to be thinking about a break," he said. "We'll see about the Derby. He took his gelding a bit hard, to be honest.
"He gets a bit nervous pre-race now, which he didn't used to do, so I feel like he'll come back a lot better from a spell."
ROAD TO DERBY SUCCESS?
Independent Road will be set for the Victoria Derby after a slashing victory in the Hugh Bowman Trophy (1400m) at Flemington.
David Hayes simply said "Derby, Derby, Derby" after the gelding avenged defeat to Leven Lass at Bendigo, storming from the tail of the field.
"We're really excited," said Hayes, who trains the $50,000 Magic Millions purchase in partnership with Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
"It was always going to be a worry with the slow tempo coming from last and only good horses can do that.
"The figures he put out to be beaten at Bendigo were excellent so to see it again, it tells me I'm going to back off now and set him for the Derby in the spring."
"That qualifies him for everything, so we don't need to run him again," Hayes said before leaving for Geelong to watch his son Will play for the Western Bulldogs.
Independent Road surged over the last 600m in 33.24 seconds, including a 10.62sec split from the 400m to 200m.
Jye McNeil claimed riding honours with a polished double. He piloted home Kings Brook, trained by David Brideoake, and Matt Cumani's Declares War.
A FEW MORE BIG NIGHTS YET
John Sadler realises there are scant opportunities left with promising Big Night Out but intends to maximise them.
The gelding is Hong Kong-bound after being sold to overseas interests but Sadler has an assurance from Big Night Out's new owners the horse will remain in Australia until the end of this season.
His dilemma now is avoiding Mat Ellerton and Simon Zahra's Zoutori, almost certainly ruling out the Queensland Guineas.
"If that other horse wasn't about (Zoutori), it would be worth thinking about the (Queensland) Guineas," Sadler said. "But I suppose you shouldn't ever worry about one horse so we'll give it some thought. I think he's a pretty smart horse."
LAURIE'S ROLLERCOASTER RIDE
Matt Laurie capped a mixed 24 hours on a positive note when Moonlover won the Pat Lalor Trophy (1000m).
The young trainer farewelled star youngster Prince Of Sussex, who is headed to Hong Kong after being sold for almost $2 million.
The juvenile had emerged as a likely spring contender, after two impressive victories, but Laurie said the offer was too good to refuse.
"You find a really nice horse and it's hard to hold off big offers like that," Laurie said.
"I would have liked to have kept him, but I understand that it's a big game-changer for some of the owners.
Moonlover took her earnings to over $500,000 after being backed from $21 to 14.