The training partnership of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott’s bid for back-to-back wins in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap was boosted following the barrier draw for the $3 million feature at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Co-trainer Bott will saddle up dual Group 1 winner Converge, who drew wide in barrier 17, while Hawaii Five Oh drew a perfect gate three with Surf Dancer in barrier seven.
Favourite Think About It from the Joe Pride stable drew midfield in gate 12.
Waterhouse took 30 years to capture her first Stradbroke winner when she and Bott claimed last year’s feature with Alligator Blood.
Despite his wide draw, Bott feels Converge would be better suited out wide and is well placed to repeat Alligator Blood’s Stradbroke winning feat when he jumped from gate 17.
Waterhouse was overseas last year and missed Alligator Blood’s Stradbroke triumph which was her 150th Group 1 win and will again be overseas this year.
Bott finds it hard to separate his trio despite Converge’s wide gate and believes betting markets may sort them out.
“Converge is a very seasoned horse and is proven at this level and is well weighted,” Bott said.
“We’re happy with Converge’s draw as he got smothered up last time he drew inside.
“He’s a horse who can find a position in a race to get his momentum going.
“He’ll come in a few places if the emergencies don’t start and he handles high pressure races like this.”
Bott said it was a big test for Hawaii Five Oh from his good draw while it was crucial for Surf Dancer to draw well.
“Hawaii Five Oh is stepping up a lot in class so early in his career but he’s making good progress,” Bott said.
“We thought Surf Dancer came through his win in the BRC Sprint well enough to pay a late acceptance fee and he’s worthy of a shot at the Stradbroke and the draw was crucial for him.”
Hawaii Five Oh is a full brother to Group 2-winning mare Libertini and will be ridden by triple Group 1-winning jockey Rachel King on a featherweight 49.5kgs.
King will become the first female rider to win a Stradbroke if Hawaii Five Oh is successful.
Three-year-old Hawaii Five Oh burst into Stradbroke contention winning the Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas in April before a dominant victory in the Group 3 Fred Best Classic earlier in the Brisbane carnival.
Converge failed on a heavy track in the Group 1 Doncaster at Randwick in April before a fast-finishing second to the Pride-trained Think About It in the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup at Eagle Farm last month.
“The favourite, Think About It, is our danger and he meets Converge better at the weights,” Bott said.
“But, having said that Converge has improved a lot.”
A trail blazer for women in racing, Waterhouse has been in a training partnership with Bott for seven years and will be chasing her 155th win at the highest level.
In latest TAB markets for the Stradbroke, Think About It has retained favouritism at $3 with Hawaii Five Oh at $5 while Converge is an $8.50 chance.
Surf Dancer is a $41 outsider.
– Racing Queensland