David Vandyke and Blake Shinn confident star mare Arabian Gold can go to a new level


RAY THOMAS
SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 9:00PM

THE conversations on their long road trips can vary from politics to sport, even the meaning of life — but it always comes back to horse racing.

David Vandyke, the Warwick Farm-based trainer, and his stable jockey Blake Shinn, often travel together to country race meetings that are far removed from feature racedays like Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

But winning races at Mudgee, Bathurst, Goulburn and Nowra is just as important to both men.

“I think Blake likes to go to these country meetings if we travel together,’’ Vandyke said.

“We are good mates, we have a bit of fun, like little boys on tour — it’s a good day out.

“But Blake and I spend most of the trip analysing the races on the way up and then discussing all our mistakes on the way home.

“The first thing Blake says to me after a race is ‘what do you think I did wrong’.

“It’s encouraging to have that kind of relationship because I feel I have the freedom to be able to identify and discuss anything I think needs attention.’’

Vandyke said on a recent trip to a Sunday bush meeting a mutual friend came along for the outing, sat in the back and absorbed the intense conversation about form and race tactics between trainer and jockey.

Arabian Gold will contest the Group 3 $300,000 Golden Pendant at Rosehhill Gardens.
Arabian Gold will contest the Group 3 $300,000 Golden Pendant at Rosehhill Gardens.

“Our companion said ‘gee you blokes are serious’,’’ Vandyke recalled.

“I told him it is because we want to win these races in the bush like they are Group races.’’

Shinn said he shares Vandyke’s meticulous nature and attention to detail.

“We have a good rapport,’’ Shinn said.

“Over the past couple of years, we have built up a great relationship and we are getting results.

“I’m sure the partnership is going to be around for a long time.’’

Arabian Gold reeled off three successive wins in the Adrian Knox Stakes, Frank Packer Plate and Doomben Roses in the autumn. Picture Chris McKeen.
Arabian Gold reeled off three successive wins in the Adrian Knox Stakes, Frank Packer Plate and Doomben Roses in the autumn. Picture Chris McKeen.

Shinn combines with Vandyke again at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday with Arabian Gold in the Group 3 $300,000 Golden Pendant (1400m).

Arabian Gold helped to cement the trainer-jockey partnership when she reeled off three successive wins in the Adrian Knox Stakes, Frank Packer Plate and Doomben Roses last autumn.

The classy filly was spelled after she was outstayed by Tinto in the Queensland Oaks.

But Vandyke and Shinn believe Arabian Gold can go to a new level this spring and have been encouraged by her recent barrier trial efforts.

“Arabian Gold has trialled well but her first-up record is poor. She was beaten at $1.30 at Canberra once,’’ Vandyke said.

“She certainly improves a lot from her first-up run, she is two from three second-up.

“But I think she has come back well and we are looking forward to her run in the Golden Pendant.’’

Vandyke said Shinn knows the best way to ride Arabian Gold.

“We want to come out quiet, let her get cover, relax and hold her up,’’ he continued. “I don’t want her to be exposed before straightening. We don’t want to go too early.

“If we give her a nice, soft time of it then it gives her every opportunity to win.’’

Vandyke said this was the way Shinn rode Arabian Gold during her autumn winning sequence and also in the mare’s dynamic barrier trial win at Warwick Farm this month.

“Whenever she is given an easy time early she has this quite explosive turn of foot,’’ he said.

“We saw the key to that in the trial and we will be using the same model in the Golden Pendant. She should get to the line strongly and hopefully win of course.’’

Vandyke said the barrier trial also served another purpose. He had noted the physical development the mare had made since her three-year-old season.

“What I was hoping to see from her is what she produced in the trial,’’ he continued. “She wants to win, she knows what it is all about.

“If she can track something into the straight and get exposed at the 300m she knows what is required and will be hitting the line.

“It was also quite obvious the physical maturity she has made since her winter spell.

“She is 17kg heavier now, stronger and more powerful.

Arabian Gold and Blake Shinn take out the Doomben Roses. Picture Mark Calleja.
Arabian Gold and Blake Shinn take out the Doomben Roses. Picture Mark Calleja.

“For the three-year-olds to progress and be competitive as four-year-olds, they have to make that physical improvement and step up a notch.

“From what I am seeing, she has made that improvement and I am quite excited about where she is going to be after this run.’’

Vandyke confirmed plans to run Arabian Gold second-up in the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield on October 11 before hopefully securing a Cox Plate start.

“All going well, I’d love to see her in the Cox Plate,’’ he continued.

“I know everyone wants to start in that race so it won’t be easy getting into the field but a ‘maidener’ (Shamus Award) won it last year.

“We will just position her preparation towards being there but if it doesn’t happen, there are other races like the Mackinnon Stakes and the Matriarch Stakes which are fantastic options if the Cox Plate doesn’t eventuate.’’

Arabian Gold and regular jockey Blake Shinn. Picture Mark Calleja.
Arabian Gold and regular jockey Blake Shinn. Picture Mark Calleja.

Vandyke is particularly keen to get Arabian Gold to the Cox Plate for owner Nick Moraitis.

Arabian Gold was the first horse Moraitis gave Vandyke and her racetrack success has compelled the owner to ensure he has a greater involvement in the trainer’s stable.

“Nick is a great supporter and we have had good success together,’’ he said.

“Just about every horse he has given me has been winning — Arabian Gold, Spice Of Life, Mary’s Dawn, Husson Choice.

“Nick has had more success than almost anyone in the industry.

“He has won the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Melbourne Cup, Derbys — you name it, he seems to have won it.’’

Moraitis is most famous as the owner of the great Might And Power, winner of the 1997 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, and the 1998 Cox Plate.

The popular owner has also raced many other outstanding gallopers including Exceed And Excel, the former top sprinter who is now a champion stallion, Fiumicino and more recently the hardy stayer Destiny’s Kiss.

Arabian Gold, by Dubawi out of Coablo, was bred by Moraitis, making the mare’s success even more special for the owner.

Vandyke has already trained the mare to win eight of her 18 starts, earning nearly $700,000 prizemoney with the promise of more to come.

“It is a pleasure to train for Nick, he loves his racing and he’s a close friend,’’ Vandyke said.

We will just position her preparation towards being there but if it doesn’t happen, there are other races like the Mackinnon Stakes and the Matriarch Stakes which are fantastic options if the Cox Plate doesn’t eventuate.

Arabian Gold finds another gear in the Frank Packer Plate. Picture Simon Bullard.
Arabian Gold finds another gear in the Frank Packer Plate. Picture Simon Bullard.