Eyes Wide Open will be out to defend his crown in the Grade 2 WSB 1900 on Saturday although he will be doing it as a gelding this year and is up against some tough opposition, including his two stable companions Herodotus and Pack Leader.
Trainer Glen Kotzen said, “It was a hard decision to geld a twice Grade 1 winner by Dynasty. Before gelding he used to haemoconcentrate (a thickening of the blood which affects the efficient transport of oxygen and thus leads to the horse tiring in the latter stages.) He also used to pull up sore behind but he is now sound and is much happier. He has lightened up and is enjoying life. In his first run as a gelding in the Drill Hall he only got into the race when it was all over and he was only beaten three lengths. I then thought why try and qualify him for the July in a weight for age mile so we are rather going for the 1900 to qualify and if that is not enough we will still have the Cup Trial. He has come on from his first run and will run a cracker.”
Eyes Wide Open looked a picture in the preliminaries of this race last year and ran accordingly to win by 0,25 lengths.
He was the highest rated horse last year on 109 but was one of four horses who carried 60kg under the merit rated band conditions. This year he is highest rated again but off is 116 rating is the only one in the top band so has to give 2kg or more to the entire field. However, if the ten point across the board raise at the beginning of the season is taken into account he is three points lower rated than last year and the gelding could have improved him too so he is probably just as well treated. He had a tricky draw of nine last year and has it even tougher this year from barrier position 12.
Herodotus is coming off an encouraging second place finish in the Grade 2 Peninsula over 1800m on January 11 in which he was doing his best work late.
Kotzen said, “He is very well and we are expecting a huge run. He will have to get lucky from the draw but he is fit and ready. His mission is to get into the July with bottom weight.”
Herodotus is drawn 13 out of 13 and is only half-a-kilogram better off with Peninsula winner Belgarion for that 1,25 length beating.
Kotzen said Pack Leader, despite looking amazing in the ring last time out on June 10 in a Pinnacle race over 1600m at Scottsville, was yet to return to his best since a tendon injury some time ago. However, he will have the blinkers removed and Kotzen hoped this would see him putting his best foot forward.
Kotzen sounded bullish about the chances of Catchafallingstar in the Listed East Coast Cup over 2000m. She is only merit rated 82 but she is running over her right trip for the first time.
He also runs Coral Bay and Je Ne Sa Quoi.
He described Coral Bay as a staying sort and gave her a big shout despite a tough draw of 13.
Kotzen has been trying to get Je Ne Sa Quoi into a race for months but she keeps being eliminated so she has not had an ideal preparation. She does have a win and a close second over 2000m and 1800m in her last two starts respectively so has a chance under Keagan de Melo.
Kotzen also mentioned Thomas Henry, who competes in the third, a maiden over 1400m, as one of his best runners on the day.
By David Thiselton