This week commenced with a setback for Scenic Lodge and resident sire Universal Ruler but they could get back on track with some black-type on Saturday.
Universal Ruler’s unbeaten 3yo Aztec King was an early scratching from the LR Placid Ark Stakes (1200m) when trainer Stefan Vahala couldn’t get him ready in time for the $500,000 introduction to The Pinnacles.
Aztec Ruler was unbeaten in two juvenile outings at Belmont during a winter campaign and was expected to play a strong hand this season until he was sidelined by a hoof abscess. “He’s not fit enough,” Vahala revealed. “It’s disappointing because the Placid Ark was his main goal this prep.
“He’s a lovely, relaxed horse with a beautiful nature and should be right to race again soon.”
Things improved when fellow Universal Ruler 3yo Estimator won at Belmont on Thursday. He was all at sea on debut in the Amelia Park Maiden (1000m) before dropping front-runner Military Power (Defcon) in the straight.
“That was his first time around a bend other than trackwork,” winning jockey Brad Parnham said. “He didn’t navigate the corner at all well but was good enough to put them away. He’s got a long way to go and there are plenty of wins to go.”
Estimator is trained by Jade Tangaroa for owner-breeders Martin Epis and Roy Harper. They have enjoyed a winning connection with trainer Ted Martinovich racing the likes of G2 Karrakatta Plate winner Lucy Mae (Stratum), Regal Magic (Helmet), Diamond Blue (Awesome Rock) and Pale Rider (Rommel).
“Jade pre-trains for Ted and that’s how we sent her Estimator,” Epis said. “He’s pretty much the best horse we have at the moment. His mother Foundry Court (Starcraft) was good and hopefully he has the potential to carry on like her.”
Universal Ruler has several more 3yo colts and fillies heading for black-type in the next month. Leading the way is Group 2 WA Guineas hopeful Lord Gannicus and G2 Karrakatta placegetter Penny On The Queen who takes her place in the G3 Champion Fillies Stakes (1600m) this Saturday.
In Melbourne, trainer Jack Laing will have a throw at the stumps with Universal Ruler longshot No Surrender in the LR Cranbourne Cup (1600m).
It’s another $500,000 race and that would be a massive return on the $40,000 it cost to buy him out of a Perth stable earlier this year.
“He’s a decent horse and is named perfectly,” Laing said. “He has a tenacious racing style and might appreciate taking a sit on Saturday. He always produces a kick at some stage and I’m in awe of his toughness.”
A Cranbourne Cup is a Jack’s home-town pipedream. His father Robbie Laing won the 2009 Cranbourne Cup with Sermon (Octagonal).
Scenic Lodge stands Universal Ruler ($6,600) with Snippetson ($7,700) and Dash For Cash ($2,200). Service fees (inc GST).