Despite outsider odds, the Bathurst team of Don and Andrew Ryan are undeterred about entering three-time winning mare Annecy in Saturday’s TAB Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens.
She will be taking on favourites from the prolific winning stables of Danny Williams and Matthew Dunn, but Andrew says Annecy is primed to produce her best in her fourth back from a spell.
His 84-year-old former race calling father Don, will be watching from the comforts of home in Bathurst.
“Travel now is too tough on Dad, but he watches races every day and studies the form; we agreed if you kept worrying about taking on stables with their success rate in the series, you’d never leave home,” Andrew chuckled.
“We’ve got a mare with genuine ability and upside, so we won’t die wondering - we’re happy to have a decent crack in better grade.”
Annecy, a four-year-old Sebring mare is weighted at 53 kilograms and has drawn barrier 11 for Tim Clark in the $60,000 1400-metre race.
Williams’ impressive last-start Highway winner Volpe heads the markets, his stablemate O’Lordy, also a recent Highway winner, is prominent in betting along with the Dunn’s Gold Coast winner Divine Unicorn.
“Danny does a great job training and riding his own trackwork, but you’ve got to take them on eventually in these Highways to find a horse’s limits,” Andrew said.
“It’s still a country class 3, so this mare is well placed with 53 kilos as a three-race winner. She’s won up to 1600 metres, but 1400 metres is ideal at this stage of her prep, and what we do know is that she’ll run it out strongly. If she’s up to them.”
Annecy has wins over 1300m at Bathurst and 1620m at Dubbo last preparation.
“We’d nominated for a Highway before when she’d won really well last prep. But she had some temperamental ways so we thought she needed more experience and maturity and spelled her,” Andrew said.
“She’s come back a better and stronger mare, so we’re rollin’ the dice. But Dad and I know Danny’s Volpe is a real smart type and we saw last week’s win. But when you come to town, you know the opposition will be quality.”
After being held up in the straight, Volpe burst clear late for 3kg claimer Jean Van Overmeire. He retains the ride, and the claim has Volpe weighted to win again, particularly out in distance to 1,400m. O’Lordy will be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy.
However, the meticulous placement of 13-time Highway winner Dunn, and the influence of Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown, will guarantee strong support for Divine Unicorn, up in grade after starting $1.80 and beating field of six over 1400m at the Gold Coast recently.