Don?t sack Concitare, says trainer
By TONY WHITE
"DON'T sack Concitare yet."
That was the clear message from trainer Bruce Swan yesterday following the barrier draw for Thursday's XXXX Gold $160,000 Grafton Cup (2400m).
The 17-hand, 600-plus kilo equine bohemith is Grafton's only representative in the Clarence River Jockey Club's flagship event.
Concitare lost plenty of support when a most disappointing 11th of 13, beaten 10.6 lengths, behind Victory Charm in last Thursday's Grafton Cup Prelude.
While on face value the run looked to be a shocker, Swan has admitted to under estimating the big gelding's fitness level.
"He surprised me. I thought he was more forward in condition than he was," Swan said.
"He had a real good blow after the race. He was just underdone for a 2200-metre race.
"He needed the run and he'll strip a lot fitter for the cup. It was a good pipe-opener.
"He's nice and open in the in the wind now, the extra furlong (2400m) will suit him, he's pulled up enormous and he hasn't missed any tucker.
"I know it's a big ask but I'm expecting a much improved run on Thursday, I'm bloody hoping so anyway. Sure he has to improve to beat this lot and obviously needs luck but don't sack him yet, he can do it, I know he can."
Swan's optimistic view isn't misplaced.
The son of the late Somerton training legend Keith Swan said it's worth remembering Concitare was badly beaten in the Sawtell Cup the start before scoring a great win in the $70,000 Coffs Harbour Cup last year.
"The form line is similar. I've got a gut feeling about this and having Chris Whiteley ride him is a plus," Swan said.
"I know what this horse can do and he can't do it if he isn't fit. There's nothing like race fitness to bring them to their peak."
Swan sent a text to Whiteley yesterday and asked if he had a ride in the Grafton Cup.
"Chris replied and said 'Yes, I'm riding a horse called Concitare'. He didn't hesitate taking the ride," Swan said.
Topweight Empyreal drew barrier 12, stablemate Sculptor barrier 16 and Prelude winner Victory Charm, barrier 2. There is expected to be a strong push for the Joseph Pride-trained Le Bron, a Larry Cassidy mount, with most form experts tipping free-running Cold Start to lead the Listed event.