Rockhampton, perfect starting point for Stradbroke competitor

Queensland’s central beef capital of Rockhampton would at first glance seem an unlikely first board of a Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap mission, but such is the changing face of Australian racing.

This is where Desleigh Forster and her ace sprinter Apache Chase head into Saturday’s inaugural $440,000 slot race, The Archer, and it marries beautifully for a bumper winter campaign to come.

Apache Chase is the sprinter Jim Byrne lost to roll at 50.5kg in the Stradbroke last year and such was the betting market’s view of the then-three-year-old he started as the second choice $6.50 well backed.

Fast early speed may have caused the loss of Apache Chase, but he certainly didn’t disgrace himself and he finished within four lengths of winner Tofane.

Forster insists the 2022 version of Apache Chase is an even better model and bookies are keeping the $21 gelding safe at Stradbroke Markets.

Forster has the luxury of having already qualified Apache Chase for the Stradbroke, thanks to his dominating victory in The Gateway at Eagle Farm in December.

Apache Chase races to victory under jockey Jim Byrne to win The Gateway at Eagle Farm. Photo: Grant Peters-Trackside Photography

So it’s on to Rocky and while there are bigger fish to fry in the winter carnival, Forster said Apache Chase is ready to rumble first in the 1300m shot put sprint for the age that will be right in its wheelhouse.

“The Stradbroke is his grand finale but he doesn’t know how to have a bad run because he’s so honest and so genuine,” Forster said.

“He’s not going to Rocky to do extras.

“These races are infrequent and a big spacious track, 1300m weight for age, suits him really well.

“The race schedule suits me because it was either that or racing the Gold Coast this weekend or racing in the Doomben 10,000.

“But the 1200m of the Doomben 10,000 is probably a bit steep for him.

“So it’s that race at Rocky, on the (Group 1) Kingsford-Smith Cup, then on the Straddy.”

Byrne has already made many sacrifices for Apache Chase, including his dramatic weight loss for Stradbroke last year.

He also jumped through many hoops to ride it in the wealthy Golden Eagle at Rosehill – forced to travel to Sydney to minimize contact with other people due to Covid-19 protocols and also self-isolate before to leave and self-quarantine upon returning to the sunshine state.

Jim Byrne and Desleigh Forster (right) with Apache Chase. Photo: Grant Peters-Trackside Photography

So a trip to Rockhampton, over 600km from Brisbane, was never going to be a problem to stay on the back of your favorite horse.

“Jimmy stays, he won’t let anyone else ride on him because he’s such a nice horse,” Forster said.

“Jimmy practically cut off his leg to ride him in the Stradbroke last year and locked himself in to ride him in the Golden Eagle, going to Rocky was never going to be a problem.

“Apache Chase is a much better horse now, more mature and stronger.

“He started off as a real chance in a Stradbroke last year, but he’s had a long campaign and they’ve gone really fast in the Straddy.

“He is a horse that can run fast sections all the way and pick up a high cruising speed.

“I think The Archer is a good race, a good idea and a good system.

“It will encourage people to go north and race their horses.”

TAB marked Apache Chase as the favorite at $3.60 to win The Archer, with Victorian raider Streets Of Avalon next in the market at $4.20.

Forster made a major strike at the start of the Winter Carnival when her elegant two-year-old Exo Lady won last Saturday’s Listed Dalrello Stakes at Eagle Farm.

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