Trying to beat the big battalions of the Weir and Hayes camp might, for most Victorian trainers, feel like trying to take on a tank with a pea shooter.
But that doesn’t mean that when the chasing pack get a good horse they don’t know how to prepare it to win big races, and none has proved that better this season than Mick Price.
The Caulfield trainer has far fewer resources – a third of the amount of runners the big two have sent out this season – yet he has been able to capture four Group One races, two in Melbourne and two in Sydney.
The wins have been achieved with two and three-year-olds, over different distances, with colts and fillies, and all during high profile carnivals the most competitive time of the year.
Price has held a license since 1991 and has always managed to find a top liner every year or two with horses like Heart of Dreams, Pompeii Ruler and that terrific sprinter Lankan Rupee making him a player in some of the sport’s biggest races.
But he has plenty of reason to be optimistic that his latest crop of group one winners could see him play a prominent role in some of the biggest events of the spring later this year.
Seabrook, a two year old filly who landed the Group One Champagne Stakes at Randwick on Saturday under long time Price ally Damien Oliver is the latest to join the Group One roster.
Mighty Boss, who sprang that 100-1 success in the Caulfield Guineas in October and Hiyaam, who took out the 2000 metre Vinery Stakes for three year old fillies at Rosehill during the Sydney carnival are two of the other scorers for the stable at the highest level this season.
But perhaps the most exciting is Grunt, who landed the Australian Guineas (also under Oliver) during the Melbourne autumn carnival in March.
Price believes the colt, a son of NZ stallion O’Reilly, could compete in the sport’s most storied races next season as the lightly raced galloper (he has had only five starts, winning the last four) should show plenty of improvement from three to four.
“We don’t have the runners. Everyone see the big two, that’s fine, I get that, but with 75 boxes, we do our best.
“Grunt… he has to be a Cox Plate horse, or he might be a Caulfield or Melbourne Cup horse. As a four year old I am not sure if he is a bit immature. He is an entire, so we need to be winning a Cox Plate with him if we can.”
Price was full of praise for Oliver’s horsemanship on Seabrook, a filly who has not always had a lot of luck. She was unfortunate not to get a run in the Blue Diamond, and since Price aimed her at Sydney she has run in most of the big two-year-old races in NSW including finishing fifth in the Golden Slipper.
”I think the ride wins the race, drawn the outside, to ride her like that, go straight to the fence and then save all that ground the ride wins the race.
”That’s how confident D Oliver is of D Oliver’s ability. That’s what makes him a Group One jockey. That’s what separates him.”
Price and the former champion go back a long way.
”He rode my first winner. When he did time (Oliver was suspended for 10 months in 2012 for betting in a race) his first ride back was for us, which won at Geelong Synthetic, Lion Of Belfort.
“I did that deliberately because I said I was going to support this bloke when he came back.”
Any two-year-old that wins at 1600m might be expected to stay 2400m as a three-year-old, but Price says Seabrook is more likely to be kept at shorter trips.
“She is a big lengthy athletic, big nostrilled, clean winded filly out of a Don Eduardo mare. I think I would be aiming for the Thousand Guineas, not the Oaks.”
BY MICHAEL LYNCH @ THE AGE