Trainer John O’Shea has never saddled a runner carrying 66kg before. Jockey Kerrin McEvoy has never ridden one with that weight.
For that matter, when was the last time such a handicap was allotted a runner in a Sydney race?
Berdibek’s massive impost for the Elite Sand and Soil Handicap (1800m) has become a real talking point ahead of the Rosehill Gardens meeting on Saturday.
O’Shea said he would prefer not having to run a horse with such a huge weight but grey gelding Berdibek needs this race to finetune his program for the Group 3 Grafton Cup next Thursday.
“It’s not something I normally do,’’ O’Shea said.
“I could have used an apprentice but he is not really a claimer’s horse. Billy (Owen) has won on him but he was a big boy with strong hands.
“If I had a heavyweight claiming apprentice I would probably have used him but there is not really one about.
“Kerrin is the right man for the job. He will sit quiet on him, won’t move around and will keep the horse balanced.’’
McEvoy, one of the most acclaimed jockeys in world racing with more than 2000 race wins including 79 at Group 1 level, is breaking new ground on Berdibek.
“I’ve never ridden one carrying so much weight,’’ said McEvoy, who is riding as light as 54kg at the Rosehill meeting.
“I’ll have to get the big saddle out and use some lead bags but as long as it is comfortable for the horse and me as well, it will be fine.
“I need to ride a bit of a different race knowing he has that big weight but the same principles apply in relation to getting him to relax early and saving energy for what is hopefully a winning run.’’
Berdibek’s huge weight is a rarity in Sydney racing – but remarkably it is not the highest weight carried in a Saturday race this season.
Zacada was given 66.5kg when he ran down the track behind Badoosh at Rosehill back in September last year.
The Harrovian raced his way out of North Queensland when he put together an 11-race winning streak including a Cairns success when shouldering 67kg last year.
He has won twice at stakes level this season and ran third in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000.
John O’Shea says there isn’t a more suitable race for Berdibek leading into the Grafton Cup. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
But to put Berdibek’s handicap into some historical perspective, he is carrying more weight than the mighty Carbine when he set a race weight-carrying record of 65.5kg (10st 5lbs) to win the 1890 Melbourne Cup.
The record weight carried to success in an Australian Group 1 race was by another all-time great Bernborough under a crushing 68.5kg (10st 11lbs) to win the 1946 Doomben Cup.
And the legendary Phar Lap won 37 races but the highest weight he carried to victory was 64.5kg (10st 3lbs) in the 1931 Futurity Stakes.
O’Shea admitted he has been forced to start Berdibek on Saturday due to the lack of suitable races leading into the Grafton Cup next week.
“It is a reflection of the poor programming that exists for stayers,’’ O’Shea said.
“There is no lead-up races for the Group 3 Grafton Cup next week.
“We had no lead-up races for a 3200m race (Stayers Cup) last week and they wonder why there was only six starters.
“Berdibek has to have a run because if he doesn’t it will mean it will be 2½ weeks between runs into the Grafton Cup and he will just over-race.
“So he will go to Rosehill, albeit in an unsuitable race. This is the best of a worst-case scenario.’’
O’Shea said Berdibek, a big, strong horse, will have no trouble coping with the 66kg handicap but might find the 1800m short of his best.
Berdibek has been improved by three runs from a spell and indicated he was close to top form with his second to Stockman in the McKell Cup (2000m) last start.
In early TAB fixed odds betting, Berdibek is at $19 for the Rosehill race where Chris Waller’s emerging young stayer Wicklow is at $2.20 favouritism to record his fourth win in succession.
O’Shea has also entered imported stayer Sound Of Cannons in the Agency Real Estate Handicap (2400m).
Sound Of Cannons, rated at $19 in latest betting behind the in-form No Compromise at $2.80 favourite, can improve on his last start fifth to Brown Thomas at Warwick Farm.
“He got left out in front last start which is probably not his go,’’ O’Shea said.
“We will be inclined to ride him a bit quieter this time.’’
Berdibek (left) finishing second behind Stockman in the Mckell Cup. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
O’Shea had Kirwan’s Lane entered for the Lynettee Lamphee Memorial Handicap (1500m) at the Rosehill meeting but has elected to send the horse to Melbourne for the Winter Championships Series Final (1600m) at Flemington.
With Rosehill rated a Heavy 8 and Flemington just into the soft range, O’Shea said Kirwan’s Lane would be better suited by the Flemington surface where the trainer also has Don Arcangelo entered for the Mahogany Challenge Final (2500m).
“The key is to go to tracks that are not too wet for Kirwan’s Lane so we were inclined to go to Melbourne with him,’’ O’Shea said.
“Don Arcangelo, he is going along well, and is definitely running at Flemington.’’
O’Shea, who is in his third full season of his comeback to training after leaving Godolphin, has had a bumper 12 months with 75 winners including a Group 1 win from Lion’s Roar in the Randwick Guineas, and stakes success with Lost And Running and the mares, Lillemor, Rocha Clock, All Saints’ Eve and All Hallows’ Eve, for stable earnings of more than $6m.
“We’ve had a good season in terms we only have a small number of horses in training,’’ O’Shea said.
“I don’t think you necessarily need to spend the big money, either. There are plenty of options to buy horses at the right money to be competitive.
“Lost And Running cost $40,000 as a yearling, Lion’s Roar was $65,000, Rocha Clock $130,000 so there are horses out there you can buy for the right money – you just need to do your homework.’’
O’Shea is also optimistic about some of the younger equine talent ready to make their marks in the new season as well as his group of rising two-year-olds which has his stable set to at least match it’s 2020-21 season returns.
“It’s very enjoyable to train horses in Sydney. I like the competitive nature of Sydney racing,’’ O’Shea said.
“There is nowhere better place in the world to train than in Sydney.’’
Originally published asBerdibek’s burden highlights lack of staying races
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