Arapaho has been such a revelation in the past 12 months that there’s no way trainer Bjorn Baker is going to doubt whether he could cap it off with a win Saturday’s Group 1 $2m Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m).
The six-year-old couldn’t be heading to Randwick in better form, with wins in the Canberra Cup and Tancred Stakes on the way, and Baker said it comes down to whether he’s stronger at the extended distance than he was back in the spring.
Baker was only 14 when his father Murray won the Sydney Cup with My Eagle Eye in 1992 and the Warwick Farm trainer said with 53kg Arapaho has his chance.
“You can’t be confident going into a field of 20 but I think the race sets up well,’’ Baker said.
“He is a weight-for-age winner so it’ll probably be the last time he will be this well treated at the weights so we want to take advantage of it while we can.
“He’s been a marvel, he’s continued to improve and he’s definitely come back a better horse.”
The import made his Australian debut in late April of 2021 and it was another 13 months before he won his first race for Baker, in a Benchmark 78 at Rosehill.
It was that preparation Baker says has been the making of Arapaho.
He raced 15 times between April 1 and November 1 last year and he claimed the Grafton Cup and the Group 3 Premier’s Cup plus recorded placings in the Caloundra Cup, City Tattersalls Cup, Newcastle Cup and St Leger before he finished midfield in the Melbourne Cup.
“I think he was 15th up into the Melbourne Cup and we sort of laugh about it but it shows how tough he is,’’ Baker said.
“He’s been an absolute great ride and we’ve never expected too much of him. Winning the Grafton Cup was a big thrill, and he won the Premier’s Cup, and to get down to Melbourne he’s done marvellous job.
“He’s very consistent in terms of his demeanour and he’s a lovely horse to have around.”
The last Tancred Stakes winner to take out the Sydney Cup was Tie The Knot in 1999, though he had another run in between, but the weight-for-age race is regularly a guide.
Rachel King, who won last year’s Cup on Knights Order, rides Arapaho ($15 with TAB on Tuesday) who drops 6kg for winning his first Group 1 and Baker said the performance proved he was both on target and good enough if the Sydney Cup pans out for him.
“It was a very good run, I thought he was very much a top three chance in the Tancred so for him to win was excellent and he travelled beautifully throughout,’’ he said.
“The last couple of runs he’s been excellent with travelling and relaxing and that’s the key.
“He was okay the first time at the two miles so hopefully he will be a bit stronger this time.
“He should get into a nice spot probably midfield so hopefully he can travel well. He’s probably got a bit of early tactical speed and that will help him.”
Baker is quietly confident Bring The Ransom has a sneaky shot at an upset in the Group 1 $1m Sydney Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) on the back of a second-up run he feels most have missed.
She was beaten under two lengths by Roots in the Emancipation Stakes (1500m) two weeks ago but was in a blanket finish for third and Baker said she’s set to peak on Saturday.
“She’ll be 100/1 and is dead set flying. Her trackwork has been really good and she’s never been fitter,’’ he said.
“It was very good run last time, she probably just peaked on her run with 100m to go and was only beaten a half head for third. I’ve got no doubt she’s improved from there.”
Tyler Schiller rides Bring The Ransom and will have to overcome gate 16.
– Racing NSW