Pride Eyes Challenge As Private’s Perfect TJ Path

If dual Everest placegetter Private Eye is beaten in Saturday’s Group 2 $500,000 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m) trainer Joe Pride says it won’t be due to staying at the short course.

Trainer Joe Pride (Pic: Bradley Photos).

Pride has his sights set on next month’s $3 million TJ Smith Stakes for the six-year-old and of the three options he had this weekend, the others being the Canterbury Stakes and Newmarket Handicap, the 1000m option appealed the most.

“I really want to give him his best chance to win the TJ and I think that’s the right lead up,’’ he said.

“I could have put him in the (Canterbury) as well but I thought 1000m to 1300m might be tough for him and it might take something out of him going to a TJ.

“So another run at the 1000m will have him primed.”

The Warwick Farm trainer has won three of the last five editions of the Challenge including back to back with Eduardo in 2021 and 2022.

Prior to the Lightning, Private Eye’s only other start at 1000m was on debut right back in mid-2020 and until the second half of 2022 he was thought of as a miler having won an Epsom and Queensland Guineas at that trip.

The gelding, $2.20 with TAB on Wednesday, found himself in foreign territory leading the Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) when he resumed at Flemington three weeks ago and he went down fighting to Imperatriz.

“That was not the plan and I get it, a lot of people said it worked out for him but if you’ve never led before it’s not ideal I would think,’’ Pride said.

“He went terrific. He’s a sprinter now, a sprint is a sprint. Whether it’s 1000m, 1100m, 1200m.

“It’s overdone the difference, he’s just fresh and well. Racing is about class, not distance, I was told that a long time ago and I believe it.

“The best of this horse comes when he’s ridden from behind and he will get that chance.”

It’s closing on 20 years since Pride won his only TJ Smith with Red Oog (2006) and Private Eye will likely be joined in that race by new stablemate Mazu who makes his debut for Pride in the Challenge.

The five-year-old, formerly trained by Peter & Paul Snowden, hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in The Hunter back in November.

Pride said on RSN this week he hopes he can bring Mazu back to the sort of form that saw him win a Group 1 and be competitive with the best sprinters around as in his third in both an Everest and TJ Smith last season.

Jason Collett has partnered Mazu in both trials and will be on board in his return.

“I think he will run really well first-up, I’ve been pleased with his trials,’’ Pride said.

“He’s jumped well, shown good enthusiasm. He’s had a change of location which to older horses can rejuvenate them.

“The Snowdens did a fantastic job with this horse, I don’t need to improve him I just need to get him back to where he was at his peak to be competitive with the best sprinters around.

“I’m not saying I’ve done that because I don’t know yet, I haven’t put him under pressure, so we’ll see.”

Pride’s plan is to send Mazu into the Group 1 $1m Kia Ora The Galaxy (1100m) in two weeks then onto the TJ Smith on April 6.

– Racing NSW

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