Osipenko Leads Waller’s Quest For Second Gong

It’s fair to say the spring hasn’t worked out the way the Chris Waller stable had hoped for talented four-year-old Osipenko so they’re chasing a consolation in Saturday’s $1 million Illawarra Mercury Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange.

Osipenko is set to be one of up to six runners from the Waller yard in the Illawarra’s biggest race with the likes of import Age Of Kings plus Waterford, Wicklow, New Mandate and Skyman being pointed in that direction.

Charlie Duckworth, assistant trainer to Waller, said The Gong is shaping as a competitive race but feels it’s a good opportunity for a horse like Osipenko to salvage something from the spring.

Chris Waller’s assistant trainer Charlie Duckworth. (Pic: Kontrym Photo).

“Osipenko is probably going to be a leading hope, he’s a genuine Group 1 performer,” Duckworth said.

“He’s going there to try and win a big one for the prep, it just hasn’t worked out for him.”

After an eye-catching fifth in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) back in August, Waller sent Osipenko to Melburne where his best effort was a third behind Mr Brightside and Alligator Blood in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).

He finished midfield in the Turnbull and was scheduled to run in the $10m James Squire Golden Eagle but was scratched on the morning of the race when found to be lame.

Duckworth said all is well with the entire and The Gong should suit him.

“We ran him over 2000m, we don’t think he really stayed so we came back in distance and then he was obviously scratched out of the Golden Eagle,’’ he said.

“Perth was too much of a stretch going there with a horse on a setback so therefore we’ve decided to stay home and stick to New South Wales.”

Waller won the inaugural running of The Gong in 2019 with Mister Sea Wolf.

The Ingham owned import Age Of Kings is a curious starter who will be hard to line up given his Australian debut 14th in the Golden Eagle can be marked a forgive run.

He raced wide near the speed then became cramped between runners early in the straight and badly checked so Duckworth said he’s prepared to give him another chance.

“Obviously he was caught in the middle of that scrimmage when they straightened up (in the Golden Eagle) so we didn’t learn a massive amount,” Duckworth said.

“But we think he’ll be better for having that first Australian start and he’s a class horse.

“He’s a Royal Ascot winner, but obviously needs things to happen his way Saturday.”

Of the other Waller contenders, Wicklow started second favourite in the $3 million Big Dance but disappointed there finishing only twelfth, Waterford comes through the Five Diamonds where he ran fifth after drawing wide, New Mandate showed a return to form winning the Ladies Day Cup at Hawkesbury with stablemate Skyman third in that race.

Osipenko was the $6 favourite with TAB in all-in betting on The Gong on Sunday ahead of Big Dance runner-up Cepheus and Little Dance winner Spangler.

– Racing NSW

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