Nugget Goes Prospecting For A Big Dance Berth In Cup

A Big Dance carrot has kept Ciaron Maher’s talented galloper Nugget in NSW to chase a spot in the $3 million feature via Saturday’s Group 3 $250,000 Richmond Club Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m).

Johann Gerard-Dubord (Pic: Bradley Photos).

The Group 1 placed gelding tackles the newly minted Big Dance eligible race having contested the Doncaster Mile a month ago and Maher’s assistant trainer Johann Gerard-Dubord said the Cup is an ideal target for him.

Maher is also represented by The Gong winner Detonator Jack and import Berkshire Shadow, both of which also come through the Doncaster, at Hawkesbury.

Five of Nugget’s last seven starts have been at Group 1 level and was beaten three-quarters of a length when running fourth behind Celestial Legend in the famous Randwick mile.

“It’s a step back from Group 1 races,’’ Gerard-Dubord said.

“He’s a horse good enough to win a Group 1 at some stage when everything works out but you’ve got a race like the Big Dance now which is attractive for a horse like him.

“When you’re a gelding, racing for $3 million is attractive and it’s something we’d like to chase with him.”

Boxing Day of 2022 was Nugget’s last win but he has recorded Group 1 placings in the CF Orr Stakes and last year’s Doncaster Mile.

The seven-year-old, $5 with TAB on Thursday, prepared for the Hawkesbury Cup with a 1200m barrier trial at Warwick Farm last week. Tyler Schiller, who won this year’s Doncaster, was on board in the trial and rides at Hawkesbury.

Gerard-Dubord said the trial was important to his chances as he’s a horse that carries a lot of condition and takes a considerable about of work.

Even though the gelding’s two Doncaster attempts have been full of merit on heavy ground he just doesn’t want significant rain on race day.

“He’s the kind of horse that gets fitter with racing,’’ he said.

“We had to trial him again as a gallop and if you watch the trial he trialled very well.

“We used to think he didn’t like the wet then last year in the Doncaster he ran very well on it. I’m still not convinced on a bottomless track he’d love it but hopefully it won’t be.”

A wet track certainly won’t bother Detonator Jack, evidenced by his dominant win in The Gong last spring, and he’s been kept on the fresh side since he ran sixth in the Doncaster.

He’s seen plenty of the beach in the past few weeks and Gerard-Dubord said that’s been more than enough to keep him up to the mark.

“He’s different to Nugget in the sense that he’s usually fairly forward in condition fairly quickly,’’ he said.

“He’s spent quite a bit of time at the beach and we didn’t feel the need to trial him again.

“Fitness with be no issue with him, it’s more about keeping him fresh and happy.

“He’s the one we know loves the wet. As long as the fence isn’t off from that gate he should get a good run and be a good chance.”

Detonator Jack already has his Big Dance eligibility with The Gong one of five provincial features added to the list of qualifying races for 2024.

It’s fair to say import Berkshire Shadow hasn’t shown his best yet in two Australian runs and he faces an outside barrier in the Hawkesbury Cup.

A Group 2 winner and Group 1 placed in Europe, the five-year-old ran 14th in the Doncaster though the stable suggests there was a bit of merit in the performance.

“His run was very good, he didn’t have much luck and was stopped a couple of times,” Gerard-Dubord said.

“With more momentum he could have been a lot closer. If he can improve again now he’s had two runs here he’s a little chance.

“And if it’s wet at Hawkesbury it may not be the worst thing drawn out there.”

– Racing NSW

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