The new year has arrived and Kembla Grange trainer Luke Price hopes First Courrier can deliver him the perfect start to 2021.
The seven-year-old gelding is among a strong field for Saturday's Benchmark 64 Handicap (over 2000 metres) at the Illawarra Turf Club - weather permitting.
First Courrier's recent form has been impressive, including victory at Kembla Grange in November and a win at Nowra last September. However, Price admits he will continue to keep a close eye on the skies in the lead-up to Saturday's race.
"He's been ultra consistent. He only got beaten by three lengths in a Saturday-grade race the other day. I'm very happy with the horse, though he has drawn very ordinary," Price said.
"He'll probably only go around if I'm happy with the track. I've also got an emergency [Persian Front], so I'll play it by ear. First Courrier doesn't mind it [a wet track], but if it gets too wet, he's not much good on it. Just the right kind of a wet track is perfect for him."
First Courrier will reunite with apprentice jockey Madison Waters, who rode him to November's win at Kembla Grange. Price believe Waters is the right fit for his gelding.
"He's a real lazy horse but she just knows exactly how he goes and how he rides best," Price said.
"Every run he's had in the last 10 starts has been so consistent. And he goes super good for 'Mads', she just rode a winner at Wagga [on Thursday], so she's a jockey in form and he's a horse in form. With weight relief, he will be hard to beat."
Persian Front shapes as Price's plan B if First Courrier is withdrawn from Saturday's race. The four-year-old has shown great recent promise, highlighted by victory at Gosford in November.
"There is a 2400-metre race here [at Kembla] next Saturday and I'm getting him ready for that. He's had a lot of runs this preparation but he continues to train well," Price said.
"He could be a similar horse to First Courrier in 12 months time, he's still in the chewer on the way up. If gets a start, he will definitely go around. I'm confident that First Courrier will run well but if Persian Front gets a run, he will hold his own as well."
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It is set to be a busy weekend for Luke and his father Robert Price, who have several runners at Nowra on Sunday. However, Price believes their best chance will be in the Benchmark 66 Handicap over 1600 metres.
"We have three horses in that race - Noble Belle, Accoy and Mohican, which will be hard to beat," Price said.
"In the previous race we have Ilvermorny which was unlucky the other day. He was made to wait in the gates a long time but he went really well and 'Maddie' rides him, so let's hope she can have a big couple of days."