Enzedder: Hugh Bowman sticks with El Roca at Rosehill on Saturday. Photo: Damian Shaw Photo: Damian ShawIt is a long way, in terms of distance and prizemoney, from their last meeting but New Zealand visitors El Roca and Atlante will look to dominate the home-town brigade in Saturday’s Hobartville Stakes (1400 metres) at Rosehill.
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The Kiwi pair started their career racing for a purse of less then $5000 at Taupo last August, where El Roca had the better of Atlante, which ran third, by just on three lengths.

Both Fastnet Rock colts have since established records of three wins and a placing from five starts and Atlante won the New Zealand 2000 Guineas at group 1 along the way.

“The other one [El Roca] has a bit better speed than our bloke, who was a bit big,” Atlante’s trainer Murray Baker said. ”He had trouble getting around the turn that day but the other one was too good.”

Atlante failed on a heavy track at his next start before stringing three wins on end, finishing with the 2000 Guineas.

“It has been a good horse’s race and he is a good horse. We decided to come over here [to] give him his chance,” Baker said. “He has travelled very well but he doesn’t like [a] wet track as you can see from that second run, so we would like the rain to go away.”

El Roca is on his second trip across the Tasman after impressing in the spring when runner-up in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude before being a luckless fifth in the Caulfield Guineas a couple of weeks later. He returned a well-backed favourite when he won the Eskimo Prince Stakes at Rosehill a fortnight ago and the prospect of a soft track does not faze trainer Trent Busuttin. “He can handle wet tracks and is fit and well,” he said.

It could be a big day for the Kiwis with Baker’s son Bjorn taking Magic Millions winner Unencumbered to the Silver Slipper earlier in the afternoon.

“He is a nice, big, relaxed horse,” Murray Baker observed of the winner of five of his six starts, which has been backed into $2.80 favourite. “Not what you expect from a two-year-old.”

Bjorn Baker is part of the new breed of Kiwis who are making inroads in Australian racing and his father pointed to the benefit of racing here. “We have always had good horses and jockeys come over here, but for young trainers the opportunities are huge,” he said. “You race for $50,000 to winner every Saturday and as you can see [from the Taupo maiden] we can’t match that. A group 2 in New Zealand is worth that, so you have to sell rather than race in New Zealand.

“Chris Waller has shown the way and now Bjorn has his foot on the ladder.”

Bjorn’s Warwick Farm operation has given the Bakers an Australian base, where Atlante and It’s A Dundeel will stay during their visits.

“Murray has some really nice horses over here and they are all doing well,” Bjorn Baker said. “It will be interesting to see how Atlante goes at Rosehill.”

He could not be happier with Unencumbered going into the Silver Slipper after a short break in the paddock following his Magic Millions win.

“I want to have a similar preparation going into the [Golden] Slipper as I did for the Magic Millions,” Baker said. “He has this run, then the Todman [Stakes] over 1200 metres in a couple of weeks, which I think is vital before the Slipper.

“He has done well since coming back in the stable, but there is still improvement there.”

Meanwhile, the racing career of group 1 winner Sizzling is over. The sprinter suffered a tendon injury in last week’s Futurity Stakes at Caulfield and the entire has been retired to Newgate Farm in the Hunter Valley.

The son of Snitzel, which leads the 2013-14 stallions’ premiership for progeny earnings, was having his second run for Waller last week after being transferred from Kelso Wood following the syndication of the former Brisbane colt. Newgate’s Henry Field said it was decided to give him a chance to add another group 1 credit before standing at stud later this year. Sizzling won the T.J. Smith as a two-year-old and the Queensland Guineas at three under the care of Wood, and won seven races from 23 starts for earnings of $1.3 million.

– with John Holloway

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