QUEENSLAND Derby winner Sonntag will be the headline act in the $150,000 Sale Cup on Sunday.
Sonntag, trained at Caulfield by Henry Dwyer, won the $500,000 group one Queensland Derby over 2400 metres at Eagle Farm on June 7. The lightly-raced four-year-old (eight starts for three wins, a second and a third) won his first race at Sale – a 1500m maiden on April 17.
He will be ridden in the 1600m Sale Cup by Chad Schofield, who rode him to win the Derby against 17 rivals.
Dwyer said Sonntag would have a light spring campaign and was likely to have only one more run – in the group three Eclipse Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on November 15. He said Sonntag was “pretty much wrung out” after his tough win in the Queensland Derby.
“He is a very finely built horse, not a great eater and he can’t be worked too hard,” Dwyer said. “But you can see him getting stronger with maturity and there is a lot of upside to him if he is not rushed into tough campaigns.”
The long-range target for Sonntag is the 2015 Sydney Cup next autumn.
Dwyer was confident Sonntag would run well at Sale and at Sandown.
“We want to make each race count. He is a young stayer who needs 1600m first-up to be competitive,” he said.
“He is a nice horse and will improve with time.”
Sonntag was bought for $58,000 at an Inglis mixed sale. He was previously trained by Peter Snowden for Darley and was unplaced in three runs for that stable.
Dwyer has prepared Sonntag for his past five starts for wins at Sale, Caulfield and Eagle Farm plus a second at Bendigo (in a field of 16) and a win over 2000m at Caulfield on May 2.
Sonntag has earned $391,495 with the Queensland Derby winner’s cheque representing about 80 per cent of the total.
Radio Sport National chief commentator Shane Anderson helped Dwyer put together a team of 16 owners in the horse. Anderson retained the biggest single share (17.5 per cent).
It could have been a disastrous and shorttermed adventure as Sonntag was injured and severely threatened by an infection after an accident within three months of his purchase. Connections were told he had only a 50-50 chance of surviving, let alone racing.
He did survive and he did race and he gave Dwyer, 30, a group one success after taking out a trainer’s licence only two years earlier.
Dwyer had worked with Robert Smerdon for four and a half years as assistant trainer and spent 18 months with Robert Hickmott and owner Lloyd Williams before going overseas to gain experience.
Anderson said Sale was the ideal track for Sonntag to resume racing.
“I have been a longtime fan of the Sale racecourse and believe it is one of the best in Victoria,” he said.
“Every horse gets the chance to win and I am sure the 400-metre straight will help Sonntag finish the race off strongly.”
While Anderson has looked forward to Sonntag’s return to racing, he would not be able to attend Sunday’s meeting. He has a commitment at a family wedding that day and has his fingers crossed that the time of his required speech will not clash with the running of the cup. Sale Turf Club chief executive Wayne Pollock said it was exciting to have Sonntag in the Sale Cup field.
“Having a last-start group one winner in our race is something special,” he said.
“It is a big bonus for our biggest race day of the year.”
So the question must be asked whether Sonntag is the best-credentialed horse to line-up in any race at Sale? The answer is ... no — only because the list of VIP runners at the course includes Makybe Diva and Weekend Hustler.