After running second in last year’s The Showdown with River Night, Flemington trainer partners Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra are back for another crack at Saturday’s $1 million race for two-year-old horses that were sired by VOBIS Sires-nominated stallions.
This time around they will saddle up Scissor Step for Hesket Bloodstock.
And there are plenty of similarities with River Night (Night Of Thunder x River Pearl) and Scissor Step (Toronado x Watch Your Step).
River Night was bred by David and Jenny Moodie’s Contract Racing, while Scissor Step was bred by Hesket Bloodstock, a breeding operation with the Moodies and Ashley Hardwick.
Scissor Step’s dam, Watch Your Step (Sepoy x Gypsy’s Best) was also bred by Hesket Bloodstock, while River Night’s dam River Pearl (Helmet x River Crossing) was bred by Contract Racing.
With one win and two thirds from Scissor Step’s three races – two at 1100m and the last one over 1000 when he finished third to the unbeaten Starry Legend in the VIOBIS Gold Rush (1000m) at Bendigo – Zahra is confident Scissor Step will appreciate the 1200m of Saturday’s race at Caulfield.
“He hasn’t done much wrong and he has gradually improved,” Zahra said.
“Scissor Step seems to put himself in the race.
“After racing at Bendigo he went straight to the farm to just give him some time out of Flemington and to freshen him up a bit.
“He is a beautiful horse and did a lot of the bullocking the other day and a lot of the chasing and the 1200m, is going to probably suit him a lot better as well.
“And Toronado is going well and is probably nearly the best Victorian stallion at the moment. He has some nice mares and a lot of hobby mares for a lot of the smaller breeders and he got a Group 1 winner (Masked Crusader) the other day and was Group 1 placed last Saturday.
“He can get the job done.
“Our bloke has had three runs and a freshen up and the 1200m should be ideal.”
And Zahra said it was a great race for huge money and the form from last year’s race had stood up with River Night since winning a stakes race – the Redoute’s Choice Stakes (1200m) – and The Showdown winner Khoekhoe (Turffontein x Walvis Bay) is also a stakes winner – the Super Impose Stakes (1800m) – and was competitive in last Saturday’s Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick.
River Knight finished a narrow second after being overhauled by the fast finishing Khoekhoe in last year’s race.
And the Salanitri brothers, John and Frank, are also back after having two runners – Just A Tribute and Fender Bender (both by Street Boss) in The Showdown last year for prominent owner and breeder, Eddie Hirsch.
Frank, who is racing manager to John, paid $155,000 for King’s Ransom, the son of Reward for Effort at the 2020 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.
Out of Viva Dubai (Dubai Destination x Always Forever), the horse was offered by Two Bays Farm and bred by Hill Holme Lodge.
Frank Salanitri has remained in the ownership, along with Hirsch and several other owners.
After winning his maiden at Kilmore in February, the gelding failed to beat a runner home at his next start at Moonee Valley in the Listed Valley Pearl at Moonee Valley.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of field we’ll get,” Salanitri said.
“Two-year-olds are so unpredictable and you don’t know whether you’ve got them one day to the next, that’s the thing with it.”
Salanitri said he lined up The Showdown after King’s Ransom ran at Moonee Valley (1200m) at his last start.
“I thought for a million dollar race it’s worth a throw at the stumps,” he said.
“He’s not hopeless and didn’t get any favours at all at The Valley, but whether he measures up to them I suppose we’ll know on race day.”
Salanitri said the stable had some good clients in the horse and while it would be exciting to have a runner in a $1 million race, he pointed out that it was hard enough to win a maiden, yet alone a race of the calibre of The Showdown.
“But unless you have a go, you don’t know,” Salanitri said.
And he said that when King’s Ransom was being auctioned late in the Inglis sale they thought they might get him for $70,000 or $80,000.
But he said there were about five “big heads” also keen, with Aquis the under bidder.
“So there were quite a few there waiting for him and he was a cracking style of horse and unfortunately we had to geld him as he was squeezing up a little,” Salanitri said.
“But we want a race horse and he was not going to be a stallion. We cut him and hopefully we’ll see further down the track.”
Salanitri said King’s Ransom was thriving after his two runs but they still had to get a benchmark on him as he’d only won at Kilmore.
“But as I said he didn’t have any luck at all at The Valley,” he said.
“It will be interesting to see how we go but we are willing to roll the dice and regardless of what he does in the race, I think he’ll go to the paddock.
“He has been trained out of the paddock up here at Tylden, where we are based now, and he is enjoying it.”