Handicapper has ?crucified? Empyreal claims trainer

July Racing Carnival

By Tony White


NEW Zealand trainer Peter McKenzie has lambasted the handicapping of Empyreal in the Grafton Cup and declared stablemate Sculptor has 'much more talent'.

McKenzie said the 58.5kg allotted to his Caloundra Cup winner in Thursday's $160,000 XXXX Gold Grafton Cup (2400m) had 'crucified' the gelding.

"It's extremely disappointing. I can't follow the handicapping," Mckenzie said from his base at Deagon, Queensland yesterday. "He just didn't deserve that.

"When he won the Caloundra Cup last year the weights had to be raised three kilos. Before this year's win I think he won one race back home (New Zealand), yet they (handicappers) seem to have forgotten what he was originally weighted on before the weights went up.

"It's strange, very strange."

McKenzie said Empyreal had pulled up well since Caloundra and Brisbane Cup placegetter Sculptor had done everything right.

Empyreal will be ridden by Kiwi jockey Chris Johnson and three-year-old Sculptor by Lisa Alpress.

McKenzie is using the Grafton Cup as a means to hopefully qualify Sculptor for next year's Caulfield and Melbourne Cup.

"He's a good young horse on the way up, he's much more talented than Empyreal, and hopefully he can run into the money at Grafton and put his hand up for a penalty for the spring," McKenzie said.

"He's a horse I've always had a high opinion of. He's been slow maturing, but is starting to take to the work."

Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse has booked Jamie Innes for Rocking On in the Grafton Cup and Danny Beasley will partner the Jack Denham-trained Verb.

Grant Buckley has been booked for Danebar, but Zac Purton, who was to ride Gaze On for Rod Craig, will miss Thursday's meeting for discussions with his solicitor.

Purton is scheduled to face the Racing NSW Appeals committee on Friday over his recent two-month suspension aboard Clang Fashion at Canterbury on June 14.

The Grafton Cup and Wednesday's $125,000 Black Toyota Ramornie barrier draws will be conducted this morning prior to the barrier draw function commencing at 10.30am at Grafton racecourse.

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