New Zealand trainer Murray Baker has been part of Australian carnivals for many years and has made his mark again this autumn under different circumstances.
Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman have not been able to travel to Sydney because of a month-long Alert Level 4 lockdown in New Zealand amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
With training and racing shut down at home, Baker admits watching Australian racing is the highlight of his day, particularly the efforts of Quick Thinker.
The colt has won the Tulloch Stakes and Australian Derby and will try to end his campaign on a winning note in Saturday’s Group Three Frank Packer Plate (2000m) at Randwick.
“Watching the Australian races is the highlight of the day,” Baker told NZ Racing Desk.
“They’re always good viewing, whether in lockdown or not. They’ve got good riders and good horses, so it is the highlight of the week at present.”
The Chosen One ran second in last Saturday’s Sydney Cup and has already gone for a spell and will be joined by his younger stablemate after Saturday.
“They’ve both performed really well and it’s fair to say they’ve been a highlight for the month,” Baker said.
His only concern is Quick Thinker will be on a much firmer track than he has encountered at his past two starts.
“It’s going to be a different test on what looks like a good track, but he has raced well on a good track before so I just hope he has held his form,” Baker said.
“He hasn’t done a lot since his win in the Derby. He has swum a bit and had a breeze-up and I think he will be fresh enough for the drop back to 2000 metres.”
With the Frank Packer run under set weights, Quick Thinker carried the same 56.5kg as the rest of the field although he is rated 19 points superior to his nearest rival.
While he respects the new wave of challengers Quick Thinker will face on Saturday, Baker is buoyed by reports from his Sydney-based trainer/son Bjorn Baker and is not concerned by running three times in four weeks.
“He is quite a tough horse,” he said.
“As you see in his races, he is very competitive. It doesn’t seem to worry him at all. He is a great feeder and there is no reason why he shouldn’t run.
“We will get this one out of the way and give him a spell.”
Baker has won both the Australian Derby and Tulloch Stakes five times and has won the Frank Packer Plate with two of his past three runners.
The Chosen One won last year while Usainity was successful in 2013.