Stayers Cup: Sweet Thomas to show his staying power at Randwick
Genuine stayers are a rare breed these days but Sweet Thomas is one horse who relishes a 3200m race as he strives for another Stayers Cup.
They are racing’s marathoners. Those genuine stayers that need every bit of 3200m to show their best form.
In Australian racing these days, these stamina-laden thoroughbreds are an anachronism.
With the emphasis on speed, two-year-old racing and a quick return to owners, the stayer is becoming a rare breed.
Races over 3200m are compelling to watch but they are few and far between. There are only two in Sydney every year – the Sydney Cup in autumn and the $125,000 Stayers Cup at Royal Randwick on Saturday – and only limited options interstate.
For Sweet Thomas, the former German stayer, these extreme distances races provide the gelding with his best opportunity to win.
“It’s good to see a race distance that has a 3 in front of it,’’ trainer Matthew Smith said.
“Sweet Thomas loves getting out to 3200m. It’s when he comes into his own.’’
If Sweet Thomas can win the Randwick staying test, he will become a multiple winner over 3200m as he is the defending champ in the Stayers Cup.
This would put him into a very select group of stayers to have won more than once at the extreme distance this century.
Azuro was a three-time 3200m winner in 2019 with his successes in the Stayers Cup, Queensland Cup and Sandown Cup.
Plot Twist won successive Stayers Cups in 2017-18, Unchain My Heart won repeat Andrew Ramsden Stakes in 2013-14, as did Pantani in 2004-05 plus the 2004 Adelaide Cup, and Niwot won the 2011 Andrew Ramsden Stakes and 2012 Sydney Cup.
The legendary Makybe Diva is the greatest stayer of the modern era with her unprecedented Melbourne Cup hat-trick in 2003-04-05 and her 2004 Sydney Cup win which demonstrates her superior staying ability at 3200m.
Sweet Thomas certainly isn’t in Makybe Diva’s league – who is for that matter – but when he gets to 3200m he excels.
But Smith revealed that when Sweet Thomas, winner of the 2018 German St Leger, was purchased to race in Australia, there was an initial belief the gelding would be effective over a middle distance.
“We thought his distance range would be from 2000m to 3200m as he had won over 2000m in Europe,’’ the trainer said.
“But since he has been here, given how sharply our races are run, they are not really run to suit a horse like him who has the most stamina. They are run to suit those horses with the best turn of foot.
“So, Sweet Thomas only gets to show his best when he is racing at 3200m.’’
In fact, from 17 starts in Australia, the only placings Sweet Thomas has managed have been over the marathon 3200m trip with his win the Stayers Cup and a last start third in the Brisbane Cup.
He’s also managed fourth placings in the Sydney Cup and Sandown Cup in his only other 3200m runs.
“We have only been able to give him four two-mile runs in Australia and he hasn’t finished worse than fourth,’’ Smith said.
“He is different to most European stayers in that he does take a bit of work to get fit. Most European stayers are naturally fit.
“He goes against the grain to be fair because he is not a big horse, either. Most horses that are around 430kg to 440kg, you don’t need to do a lot with them but he needs the work.
“The good thing about Sweet Thomas is he’s sound and tough, and he just loves his racing. He enjoys being out there.’’
Sweet Thomas, burdened with 60kg topweight in the Stayers Cup, has only six rivals and is rated at $4 in early TAB Fixed Odds betting behind only Kaapfever at $2.80.
Smith said Sweet Thomas has trained on well since his Brisbane Cup placing and is hopeful of a genuinely run contest at Randwick.
“Tactically, Sweet Thomas can be a tricky horse to ride because he tends to get back a bit in his races and over two miles he needs a genuine gallop,’’ Smith said.
“These are hard races to win but they are good to watch because there is plenty of time for a jockey to make decisions.
“With most horses in these 3200m races you don’t know if they are going to run the trip but when it comes to Sweet Thomas, we know he will run it right out.
“I just don’t want him to get too far out of the race early, that’s the key. We need him to jump away as he was a bit tardy in the Brisbane Cup. If he gets into the race he can out-stay them.’’
Sweet Thomas is yet another talented imported galloper Smith has prepared to success in Australia.
The trainer has earned a deserved reputation for excellence with these former European gallopers most notably Fierce Impact who he has prepared to win three Group 1 races including the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington last spring.
Smith has also trained the likes of imports Attorney (Group 3 Colin Stephen Quality, Listed Pakenham Cup) and Grey Lion (Listed Queensland Cup) to win major races this season.
Fierce Impact and Grey Lion have been retired from racing but Attorney is back in light work ahead of a possible Cups campaign in Melbourne this spring.
“You want to get the best result out of every horse you put a bridle on but to see Attorney have such a good spring last year was great,’’ Smith said.
“He had a shocking preparation before that so it was satisfying to get him back to win those good races.
“Attorney will return for spring and he’s a stayer with a turn of foot. I know it is a big call, but it’s the right year to have a horse going for the Melbourne Cup.’’
Sweet Thomas is a rising 10-year-old so his chances of running in a Melbourne Cup have probably passed him by.
But Smith will take another 3200m win in the Stayers Cup from Sweet Thomas on Saturday to put an exclamation mark on a very successful 2020-21 campaign for his stable.
Smith, who has his stable base at Warwick Farm and is developing a training and stabling complex at Luskin Park in the Hunter Valley where he can rotate his horses between properties to give them the “best of both worlds”, has prepared 45 winners on all tracks including five stakes winners for stable earnings of nearly $3.3m.
“We have won the right races this season and I’m happy with our results,’’ Smith said.
“It’s all about trying to grow our stable and be competitive and I think we are holding our own. We are set up nicely for the new season.’’