The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Converge is under an injury cloud on the eve of the $4 million The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Bott reported to Racing NSW stewards that Converge was found to have swelling in the off-hind leg after Wednesday morning trackwork.
Bott told stewards Converge had not undertaken any trackwork on Thursday morning but reiterated the talented four-year-old had completed his final piece of fast work on Tuesday.
Converge, who defeated Anamoe in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas over the Doncaster course 12 months ago, is at $10 in latest TAB Fixed Odds betting for the Doncaster Mile.
The talented four-year-old ran his best race since his Guineas win when a close third to champion Anamoe and Fangirl in the George Ryder Stakes two weeks ago.
Converge is among 11 individual Group 1 winners in an outstanding field for the Doncaster Mile which collectively has won combined prizemoney of more than $34 million.
But as impressive as the Doncaster field is, the sheer quality of the 15 sprinters in the Group 1 $3 million Furphy TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) is superior.
The TJ Smith field, which contains seven individual Group 1 winners, has won combined prizemoney of more than $65 million – an Australian record.
“Saturday is without doubt one of the best renewals of The Star Championships as we mark ten years of this spectacular Sydney racing event,” ATC executive general manager Racing and Wagering James Ross said.
“The Furphy TJ Smith Stakes shapes as another of the world’s best sprints as we also again welcome amongst the very best international jockeys to Sydney against our own world-class jockeys room.”
Ross said Sydney racing is being “showcased to the world” over the two days of The Championships.
“It is satisfying to see international participation grow in number and in quality, with horses trained by leading figures such as Yoshito Yahagi, Joseph O’Brien and William Haggas truly highlighting the global event that the Sydney Autumn Carnival has become on the international stage,” Ross said.
“It’s also a great complement to the world-class racing in Sydney to see such widespread international media and broadcasters, and very exciting for fans in both Japan and Hong Kong to have simulcast coverage of the Longines Queen Elizabeth stakes meeting at Royal Randwick.”
Sky Racing’s Phil Roberts has been selected as guest caller for the $500,000 Country Championships Final on Saturday.
Then for Day Two of The Championships on April 8, Luke Marlow will broadcast the $500,000 Provincial-Midway Championships Final.
Hong Kong’s superstar jockey Zac Purton remains confident he will be fit to ride at Randwick’s Derby-Doncaster meeting after being struck with illness earlier this week.
Purton felt unwell with flu-like symptoms after the first race at Sha Tin on Wednesday night and was stood down for the rest of the meeting.
The champion jockey said he still felt “flat” but confirmed plans to arrive in Sydney on Friday.
Purton, who rode two Group 1 winners on Communist (Randwick Guineas) and Artorius (Canterbury Stakes) when he last rode in Sydney earlier this month, has nine rides at Randwick on Saturday.
They include rides in all four Group 1 races, most notably favourites Mr Brightside in the $4 million The Star Doncaster Mile and The Everest winner Giga Kick in the $3 million TJ Smith Stakes.
Hall of Famer Hugh Bowman, who is also riding in Hong Kong these days, returns to Sydney with the very real chance of becoming only the third jockey to ride 100 Australian Group 1 winners.
Bowman has outstanding rides in three Group 1 races on Saturday including favourite Sharp ‘N’ Smart in the $2 million ATC Australian Derby. He’s also riding Lost And Running in the TJ Smith Stakes and Don Corleone in the Inglis Sires Produce Stakes.
If Bowman can ride at least one Group 1 winner on Day One of The Championships, he will become only the third jockey to ride 100 or more major race winners on Australian racetracks.
The only other jockeys to achieve this feat are Damien Oliver with 123 Group 1 winners (and counting) and the late George Moore on 104.
The Championships lost two Group 1 stars this week with the news I’m Thunderstruck won’t race again this autumn and In The Congo has been retired to stud.
Trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr confirmed earlier this week that I’m Thunderstruck will be spelled after his disappointing unplaced run in the All-Star Mile.
The talented I’m Thunderstruck won the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes and ran second to champion Anamoe in the Cox Plate earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Newgate Farm supremo Henry Field announced In The Congo had run his last race after finishing well back in the William Reid Stakes.
In The Congo, who defeated Anamoe in the Group 1 Golden Rose last season, will join the stallion roster at Newgate Farm.
The trainers of Running Bear and Audette have used the Warwick Farm midweeks to prepare for The Championships at Royal Randwick.
Jan Bowen gave Running Bear her final lead-up into Saturday’s $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Warwick Farm two weeks ago when the mare scored narrowly.
Then trainer Kylie Gavenlock took her mare Audette to the same track on Wednesday for a tough win in readiness for the $500,000 Provincial Midway Championships Final on April 8.
It’s a decade since Golden Slipper winner Overreach was beaten as an odds-on favourite in the ATC Sires, finishing third to Guelph.
Overreach only had one more race start due to injury but she is making a success of her new broodmare career with her only two foals to race both lining up at Royal Randwick on Saturday – Lofty Strike in the TJ Smith Stakes and Talbragar in the Country Championships Final.
The TJ Smith Stakes has produced some sensational renewals over the years but none more brilliant than the great, unbeaten Black Caviar’s 25th win in her final race start in 2013, and none more unforgettable than Chautauqua’s fast-finishing effort to run down English and win his third successive TJ’s in 2017.
Originally published as Group 1 winner Converge fighting to be fit for the $4m Group 1 Doncaster Mile