Up-and-coming four-year-old Grand Cross makes his racing comeback this Sunday, but trainer James Peters is treading carefully when asked if he can win first-up.
The son of Fastnet Rock last raced on November 20, 2016 when he came up trumps in a Class 3 race over 1200m on turf for his second Kranji success in only seven starts. He first saluted five weeks earlier in a Class 4 race over 1100m on Polytrack on October 14.
A two-time winner back in Australia over sprint distances (900m and 1000m) in country New South Wales (Newcastle and Wyong) when prepared by Gerald Ryan, Peters had a hunch there could be more to Grand Cross than just sprint races.
But before getting there, the China Horse Club-owned gelding needed a break to strengthen up further. Peters tipped him out after his last run only to bring him back early in the year to gear him up towards his new campaign, which kicks off in Sunday’s $80,000 Class 3 race over 1200m.
A quiet barrier trial under jockey Danny Beasley on February 2 was the last pre-comeback finish touch, but Peters felt the last strokes will only come through at his next couple of races.
“He had a nice break after his last prep. He’s come back in good order and had a nice barrier trial a couple of weeks ago,” said the young English handler.
“Last Saturday, he had a good jumpout on grass and he went really well. That has set him up nicely for his comeback.”
Peters, however, let in that he struggled to find the perfect fit for that first-up run, eventually settling for Sunday’s 1200m race, which could fire him up as opposed to a jump-and-run 1000m or 1100m Polytrack scamper.
“To be honest, I would have preferred a 1000m or 1100m race first-up, but there were no suitable races for him. He was ready to race and I had to run him,” he said.
“He used to overrace a fair bit, but he’s learned to relax better now. Still, because it’s a 1200m race on turf, I’ve decided to take the blinkers off as he could be too keen fresh-up. That will hopefully make him relax better.
“In any case, he’s a gross doing sort of horse. Last prep, it took him a few runs (fifth start) before he won his first race.
“I think he might need the run again this Sunday, but he’s fit and well, and I hope he puts in a good run.
“The wide draw in 12 is also a concern, but I’ll leave it to Shafiq (Rizuan) to work out the speedmap.”
Originally ridden by Vlad Duric at his first two local runs, Grand Cross has at his last five starts always been partnered by the former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey with whom he won his two races.
Peters said that irrespective of his performance, that first race under the belt can only hone his condition further.
“That first run will benefit him. He’s always shown a lot of speed at his first prep, but I’ve always felt he can go over 1400m at some point,” said Peters.
“He’s four and I suppose I can look at the first Leg of the 4YO series, but that’s a long way off. We have to see how he goes on Sunday first.”
The first Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge is the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1400m) which turned out to be the first silverware Michael Freedman’s former assistant-trainer won barely two months into his new position as the head of a stable, with Titanium.
“I’ve already got Magnum for the 4YO series. It’d be nice to have another crack and if Grand Cross could be another option, that would be great, but let’s take it one step at a time,” said Peters.