Gingernuts (Image: Trish Dunell)
When a stable has to resort to Plan B in the middle of the Melbourne Cup Carnival it can often spell trouble but trainer Stephen Autridge goes into Saturday's $2 million Emirates Stakes full of confidence Kiwi cult galloper Gingernuts can make a winning debut in Melbourne.
The multiple Group 1-winning four-year-old was to contest last month's Caulfield Cup but those plans were quickly changed when heavy rain in New Zealand forced the G1 Livamol Classic to be rescheduled.
That race was to have been run on October 7, two weeks after his G1 Windsor Park Plate win and a fortnight before the Caulfield Cup but connections aborted the Caulfield plan when the Livamol was put back to October 22, with Gingernuts subsequently running second to Wait A Sec.
The Emirates Stakes over 2000 metres was then identified as the logical Plan B target and Autridge said on Friday that the forced change of plans is now being considered as more of a blessing in disguise than a setback.
"The No. 1 plan was the Caulfield Cup but the lead-up we'd planned got abandoned so we had to go to Plan B but looking back, we're quite happy going into this race because Flemington is probably going to suit him better than Caulfield would have," Autridge said.
Autridge, who trains in partnership for Te Akau Racing with Jamie Richards, said a quick conversation with Hugh Bowman after he rode the horse in trackwork backed-up his gut feeling that the flat, spacious course would ideally suit the galloper's fast-finishing style.
"On Tuesday morning, Hughie Bowman came out and galloped him," Autridge said. "He galloped with one of (Tony) McEvoy's on the grass and Hughie was very happy with his work and he said Flemington would be better than Caulfield so that's a huge plus.
"You've got that big, long run in and he does get back a bit. It gives you more time to get into the open and finish it off and I'd rather have a horse coming off the pace here at Flemington than anything else.
"Hopefully he can get into midfield and get a bit of cover."
Gingernuts, who last autumn won the New Zealand Derby and Rosehill Guineas, flew into Melbourne last week but he did not immediately take to his new surroundings.
"He's arrived pretty good but it took him three or four days to really settle into it but since then he's 100 per cent," Autridge said.
Beaten as the odds-on favourite in the Livamol Classic in his final New Zealand start before his flight over, Autridge warned punters not to take too much notice of the result.
"He ran a great race," he said. "He got beaten a nose and there was bit of a track bias that day. We came down the middle of the track and the inside horses were winning so we thought that we couldn't do much better."
As for his horse's task on Saturday, Autridge said he was wary of the opposition, but goes into the race knowing that if he produces his best he will be the horse to beat.
"It's a very good field. If you look at their ratings, they are all rated very highly, like he is," he said.
"The confidence that we got was that when he won the Rosehill Guineas, it was one of the highest-rating three-year-old races of the year.
"He won that quite nicely and he's done nothing but continue to please us since then so we're confident that we're going to get a big run from him.
"He's very adaptable. He's a genuine racehorse that if you make a plan and head towards it, he's always going to do his best."
Joining Gingernuts in Melbourne are a number of the Te Akau Gingernuts Syndicate, who will be on course to cheer on the horse that is rapidly becoming the pride of New Zealand.
"I believe there is going to be quite a few here and why wouldn't they be?" he said.