Orange set to take trans-Tasman gamble
By Michael Guerin
Champion New Zealand reinsman Blair Orange is set to play travel pause bingo over the next few weeks so he can partner Krug in the historic first running of Australia’s newest race.
That could mean a two weeks stay or even longer in Queensland and the chance to double or triple his meagre Australian number of winners.
Orange will win the New Zealand driver’s premiership for the fourth straight season on July 31 as he sits 40 wins clear of John Dunn at the head of the table, so can head to Australia without having to jeopardise that title.
But there was still some factors to consider before accepting the drive on Krug, second favourite for the inaugural A$250,000 Rising Sun at Albion Park in Brisbane on Saturday night.
While Orange can get into Queensland easily enough he, like any other Kiwi there, will face uncertainty about when he can return, with the next Government announcement expected tomorrow.
“At this stage I am going over hoping to come back on Monday but we all know that may not be possible,” says Orange.
“And if I can’t that is ok. He (Krug) has the Queensland Derby on July 24 and if I had to stay there all the way through until that it wouldn’t be a disaster.
“My first thought is of course I want to be able to come home but the racing is pretty quiet here and I don’t often get to to drive in Australia and especially horses like him with big chances in major races. So I will be guided by what the Government says.
“To be honest a break away from driving so much wouldn’t do me any harm. I am getting to that point of the season when I could do with a small break.”
Remarkably for a driver who has been at the top of his industry for a decade, initially finishing second to good friend Dexter Dunn on the premiership before taking over his mantle, Orange has driven just one winner in Australia.
“I drove Rozelski to win a heat of the NSW Oaks a few years ago but she had no luck in the final,” remembers Orange.
“I have also driven at Albion Park for one night and of all places Horsham for a driver’s series but I have never even driven at a major track like Melton.
“So I am pretty excited to get back over there the Rising Sun looks a great race.”
Krug has drawn barrier one in the race for three and four-year-olds and is second favourite even up against Auckland Cup winner Amazing Dream, Miracle Mile runner-up Expensive Ego and Auckland pacer Copy That, the latter a stunning winner at Albion Park last Saturday.
Krug goes into the race an easy winner of the Redcliffe Derby last start when handled by Anthony Butt and even though Butt is committed to Copy That this Saturday he has given Orange a good push for Krug’s current form.
“We all know he is a good horse, he won both our Derbys here, but the dynamics of this race are really interesting.
“I will be trying to make the most of the ace and if we can lead great but I am told Kowalksi Analysis, who has drawn barrier four, is also very quick so I see us leading or trailing.
“After that a lot might depend on pressure but I am looking forward to being part of it and trying to get that second Aussie win, and maybe a third in the Derby in a few weeks.”