Co-trainers Emma and Lucy Longmire could have an interesting 12 months ahead if Thunder Road passes an extreme stamina test in NSW’s longest race at Wagga on Tuesday.
Thunder Road lines up in the Budget Truck Hire Riverina Cup over the marathon 3800m trip and looks the one to beat after his last-start win in the Riverina Cup Prelude over 2500m on a track rated a heavy 9 on July 9.
Emma and Lucy, twin sisters based at Goulburn, started training together in April and have had an excellent start to their partnership with six winners (including Randwick winner Wildflower in June) and six placegetters from just 22 starters.
“We always planned to train together at some stage, but it was just a matter of getting the timing right,” Emma said.
“We’ve got a great set-up here at Goulburn and we’ve had a good start this year. We have a few horses out spelling at the moment and Thunder Road is the only horse we have in training at the moment, but we a few nice ones coming along.”
The Longmires view Tuesday’s marathon at Wagga as a possible turning point in Thunder Road’s career and have the marathon Jericho Cup to be run at Warrnambool next year in mind for the five-year-old son of Roadhog.
The $300,000 Jericho Cup is a one-off Benchmark 90 race over 4600m to be run in November, 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a race run in Palestine involving Australian and New Zealand troops during World War I.
Only horses bred in NZ and Australia are eligible and the field will be determined through a series of qualifying races over 3000m or longer throughout Australia during 2017 and 2018.
The Riverina Cup is the qualifying race run in NSW and carries double points.
“If he proves he can stay these longer trips then the Jericho Cup would be an obvious target and we could be off interstate a few times to try and qualify him,” said Emma.
Emma is confident Thunder Road will run the 3800m right out in Tuesday’s race and is delighted the stayer will strike another heavy track.
The Wagga track on Monday was rated a heavy 9.
She said he had thrived since his last-start win in the prelude when he proved too strong for Tuesday’s main rival, Sir Ottavio, over 2500m.
Brodie Loy, who rode Thunder Road last time, is currently riding in New Caledonia and Nick Souquet takes over on Tuesday.
“He’s come through that race really well and his work since has been great,” said Emma. “He’s a very clean-winded horse, very easy to keep fit. And he’s going to get another heavy track which he handles really well.
He only weighs 420kgs and just skims over these heavy tracks.
“We’re confident he’ll run very well again and are looking forward to the race. All his owners are coming down from Sydney for the race.”
Sir Ottavio, trained locally by Trevor Sutherland, and Victorian visitor Rock Icon look the only other chances in the eight-horse field.
Sutherland has retained 4kg-claiming apprentice Patrick Scorse for topweight Sir Ottavio, who will meet Thunder Road 1.5kg better at the weights from their clash in the prelude.
Sutherland’s Gentleman Max, meanwhile, gets conditions to suit again as he chases a winning hat-trick in the Romano’s Hotel Benchmark 75 Hcp (1400m).
Seven of Gentleman Max’s eight career wins have been on heavy tracks, including his past two victories at Corowa on July 4 and at Wagga five days later on July 9.