Cristiano's challenge

Cristiano's challenge

Caretaker trainer John Dunn was gobsmacked when he saw the field for Franco Cristiano’s Breeders Crown “warm-up” race at Melton on Saturday night.

And it’s no wonder when you consider the city “maiden” race (M0) boasts last season’s triple Derby winner Menin Gate (gate four) and this season’s superstar three-year-old Our Waikiki Beach (gate nine). Franco Cristiano has gate 10.

“It’s going to be a good indicator of where we are at, that’s for sure,” Dunn said. “I don’t expect to beat Waikiki Beach or Menin Gate, but I’d love to be hitting the line strongly behind them.”

Franco Cristiano arrived at Andy Gath’s stables near Melton last week, has settled in well and had a low-key trial around the Melton track yesterday (Tuesday).

“He did what I wanted and he’s got a few wee tricks still, so getting a look around the track in the trial and again in a race this week will help,” Dunn said.

“In the trial he drew five, drifted back then I went to the death, but sat back off the leader (Highview Ruler) and got within a length or so of the winner at the finish (running second).”

Highview Ruler won by the 2240m trial in a 2min1.5sec mile rate and finished off in 56.3 and 27.6sec with Franco Cristiano.

“He badly needed the run so the trial and this week’s race will bring him on nicely ahead of the semi-final (of the Breeders Crown),” Dunn said.

Dunn said Franco Cristiano had always displayed enormous talent and was still maturing.

“He’s a horse we’ve always liked a lot and he’s getting better all the time,” he said.

“I’m sure he’ll be competitive in the Crown and it’s great for his owners, a good group of people from Ashburton, to be have him across here being a part of it.”

Dunn will take the reins himself this week in what will be just his second drive in a race at Melton.

“The only other one was Franco Nelson in the Hunter Cup (running sixth) in 2014,” he said.

Although (Our) Waikiki Beach will be a warm favourite, he will face a big challenge to beat former Victoria Derby winner Menin Gate if the finds the lead from gate four over the 1720m sprint trip around Melton.

The other highlight of the Melton meeting is Hectorjayjay’s return from a freshen-up in the Minuteman free-for-all (2240m).

He will be a clear favourite despite a wide draw (gate six) and quality rivals like: Chilli Palmer (one), Messini (two), Flaming Flutter (seven) and Major Crocker (10).

Article by Adam Hamilton

Posted: Wed 10 Aug 2016