Last-start Group One winner Grunt (O'Reilly x Ruqqaya) will be aiming for a third win at elite level when he lines-up in the Gr.1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) on his hometrack on Sunday.
Trained at Caulfield by Mick Price, Grunt won the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) last season before winning the Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington a fortnight ago and has now been set on a Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) path.
Price is happy with the way the four-year-old entire has pulled up since his last-start win and said he will have two lead-up runs into the Cox Plate, including Sunday’s 1800m feature where he has drawn the outside barrier in the ten horse field.
“Grunt has had a couple of gallops, he galloped here (Caulfield) on Saturday morning and sat off Fighting Harada this (Wednesday) morning,” he said.
“He’s fit, he’s sound and he’s happy and he’ll take his place (on Sunday).
“The Cox Plate path with him is to go into the Caulfield Stakes (2000m, Group One) after the Underwood, that’s in two weeks, and then into the Cox Plate. I’ve got to fit in a Moonee Valley practice in there somewhere as well.
“So we’re going to take that path, there is plenty of racing for him and we’ll just play around with him in-between runs and he should be fine.”
Price is confident with the four-year-old heading into Sunday and said Grunt would appreciate the step up in distance after his two unplaced efforts over 1400m at Caulfield fresh-up this season.
“I know 1400m is no good for him around here (Caulfield), but once you get him up to 1800 to 2000m, momentum changes and they get around the corners a bit better,” Price said.
“He’s a big, long striding horse and he doesn’t want to be in the mess, trying to pick up and sprint. That is why Flemington suits him. I think if he gets a bit of free-running, he’ll be right in the money.”
Bred by Trelawney Stud, Grunt was purchased for $220,000 out of their 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier draft by Price and bloodstock agent Cameron Cooke.– NZ Racing Desk