Stephen Baster admits he was caught off guard by Awesome Rock’s last-start Dato TanChin Nam Stakes win but the jockey is eagerly awaiting the Underwood Stakes.
The Leon and Troy Corstens-trained five-year-old gained automatic entry into next month’s Cox Plate with his win in the Group Two Dato Tan, a victory that surprised Baster based on his work in the lead-up.
Baster has been back aboard Awesome Rock in his “fast” gallops since and partnered him in a work-out with Mr Individual, an acceptor in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, on the course proper at Flemington on Tuesday.
He said both horses worked well but was reluctant to say whether Awesome Rock had improved since the Moonee Valley success leading into the Group One Underwood.
“I don’t like to say as I didn’t think he galloped that well before Moonee Valley,” Baster said.
The Cleaner, Jacquinot Bay and Tavago are the only horses lining up that Awesome Rock ran against at Moonee Valley but the form has been franked with the win of Jameka in the Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield last week.
Baster says he’s not frightened of any runner in Saturday’s line-up but admits Sydney visitor Lucia Valentina is the wildcard.
The winner of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in the autumn, Lucia Valentina ran a first-up fourth to Winx in the Warwick Stakes at Randwick last month.
“Her run the other day was really good,” Baster said.
“But we’re all in the same boat. I wouldn’t think there is a stand-out in that field.
“I don’t think Black Heart Bart will have a problem with the 1800 metres as long as he relaxes but on my bloke’s last win he’s as good a chance as any of them.”
Baster’s only concern is if the predicted rain arrives and softens the track, currently rated in the good range.
Baster said the soft 6 rated track at Caulfield last week would not have been to Awesome Rock’s liking.
“He can be a bit precious that way but if he gets the right track he’ll be hard to beat,” Baster said.