Ben Foote sets Illuminati on Winter Cup quest

Illuminati’s trainer Ben Foote seeks to get the mare back in the rich vein if form she achieved earlier in the winter.

Illuminati has had an enforced break from racing but Cambridge trainer Ben Foote still has designs on the Winter Cup.

Her winter campaign hit a speed bump with a badly bruised heel which became apparent after a last start fifth behind The Filly at Ellerslie on May 30.

“She was a bit sore a couple of times but seemed to come right then the problem came to the surface after that Ellerslie race and she needed a few weeks to recover,” Foote said.

“She fit and well again now and I’ll continue on to the Winter Cup if she goes well this weekend and also if she goes well when I back her up in the Opunake Cup next Saturday.”

Illuminati had been in sparkling shape before her mishap with three wins and a second in four runs back after a spell. If she recaptures that rich vein of form she will make her presence felt at Ruakaka with regular pilot Viktoria Gatu aboard.

“Her work has been good and she won fresh-up at the start of winter and she has residual fitness despite not racing for a few weeks,” Foote said.

The Pacific Homes Open 1400 has been robbed of some interest with the early scratching of The Filly but Antonio Lombardo, Bechtolsheimer, To Be Sure, Britt Ekland and likely pacemaker Goldminer will ensure the race for the $25,000 stake is a keen one.

Goldminer performs best with space between races and her run behind Spin Doctor and To Be Sure on the course four weeks ago was a beauty. 

That was over 1200 metres while four of her nine career wins have come at Saturday’s 1400 metres and Danielle Johnson sticks with the ship which is a major plus.

Johnson may jump ship the following Saturday, however, with Foote opting for her experience over Holmquist’s youth when Illuminati tackles the Opunake Cup. 

After that run Foote hopes her form warrants the trek to Riccarton and a crack at the Group III Winter Cup run over 1600 metres on August 1 for a stake of $100,000.

Darrel Lang has only one wish for his super talented stable star Moochi Me in her return to racing at Ruakaka.

“It would be nice to start off with a win, but all we want is to see her pull up well afterwards,” the Cambridge trainer said.

The winner of three of her six starts, Moochi Me will resume in Saturday’s Ruakaka Charity Race Day 1000 after she was side-lined by a bleeding attack when runner-up in the Group II Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes. 

“I had her ready a little while ago, but the tracks were too heavy and I backed off her,” Lang said. “She then ended up with quite a nasty stone bruise that took a while to come right and she’s jumping out of her skin now.

“Michael Coleman came over and rode her in a jump-out last Friday and he was very happy with her. She also pulled up great after her gallop on Tuesday morning.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of trainers about bleeders and they’ve all said it’s important to have them really ready to come back.

“She’s probably lighter now than she was when she won her maiden last year and the track at Ruakaka is playing really well. 

“We might even leave her up there for a couple of days afterwards and hopefully get some sun on her back.”

While Lang is taking it a race at a time with Moochi Me, he has longer-term plans should the mare’s comeback go smoothly.

“If everything goes well, and we’ll be guided by her, the Foxbridge Plate is a nice race and the timing is right if we have a crack at the big boys and girls at Hawke’s Bay,” he said.

Lang will also be guided by the experience of Moochi Me’s regular partner Coleman.

“Michael knows her better than anyone and he doesn’t pull any punches,” he said.

Additional reporting NZ Racing Desk

 – Stuff

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