LONG ROAD TO CUP GLORY
By TONY WHITE
STANDING 17-plus hands and tipping the scales in excess of 600 kilograms, the Bruce Swan-trained Concitare can aptly be described as an equine behemoth.
Despite Concitare's massive conformation, Grafton-based Swan, the son of deceased training legend Keith Swan, describes the gelding as 'a big pussy cat'.
"There's no push and shove in him," Swan said.
"A mate of mine did comment, however, 'imagine if he was a colt'. I reckon he'd be hard to handle then. He's certainly big and strong ? he eats two to three kilos more food per day than any other horse in my stable ? but saves his strength for race day."
Winning the Grafton Cup is a long time dream of Swan's.
Today at Grafton, Concitare continues his build-up to that race when he contests the XXXX Gold 'On Tap' Open Hcp (1500m).
And the trainer believes Concitare's strength will be fully put to the test having to lump topweight of 59kg in the event.
"I got the shock of my life when I saw the weights, he's only a class six horse in an open handicap. It's certainly a good horse's weight," Swan said.
The five-year-old gelding will be ridden by Wayne Wheatley.
Concitare drew many admirers last preparation when he won three staying races at Doomben (twice) and Eagle Farm, the latter two wins out of grade in class six company.
The successes were vindication of Swan's long held belief in Concitare.
But this campaign ? three unplaced runs over unsuitable distance since resuming in the Inverell Cup on January 2 ? have spawned a band of doubters questioning whether the gelding has come up, a point that irks Swan.
"Anyone with any commonsense should realise a mile (1600m) and less is not his caper," Swan said.
"If you look back through his previous form he always takes a few runs to come good and he needs ground.
"I know what I've got, they (doubters) don't. The Cup (Grafton) is what we're after. I don't want to cook him too soon, until he gets to the longer races.
"He's a big horse who needs work. We're on the fitness campaign at the moment.
"People expect him to do more but you can't change the horse. I'm just going to be patient. I want him for July.
"He'll have a couple more runs then go to the paddock for a couple of weeks and probably have about six runs leading in to the Grafton Cup. That's what we're after."
Swan said Concitare is approximately 15kg heavier this campaign, adding he is the type of animal that can look good on the outside but in reality is 'still fat inside'.
"Before he last raced in Brisbane he got away from me a bit when we had the big wet down here (Grafton)," he said.
"He was about 625 kilos. He's a real good doer. You've got to watch him."
Getting the genial giant fully fit also raises inherent problems.
Swan admitted Concitare, despite winning six from 27 starts, had never been what he termed 'rock hard fit' for a race.
"He's only been about 85 per cent," Swan said.
"He's done far more than I expected at this stage. He's still a four-year-old in the brain and still learning. He's a late maturer.
"Basically he's still a big baby, a big kid.
"I expect him to get better every preparation, hopefully.
"I've never had him 100 per cent fit but that will come.
"We've had a long term plan, nearly two years in the making and hopefully the best is yet to come."