IN Racing
Footes upbeat ahead of Babylon Berlin return
Saturday’s Happy 80th Birthday Garry Chittick (1100m) at Trentham is set to cap an exciting week for Cambridge trainers Ben and Ryan Foote.
Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | May 17, 2024
Babylon Berlin will contest the Happy 80th Birthday Garry Chittick. Photo: Race Images Palmerston North

Saturday’s Happy 80th Birthday Garry Chittick (1100m) at Trentham is set to cap an exciting week for Cambridge trainers Ben and Ryan Foote.

The $40,000 open sprint marks a welcome return to raceday action for the Footes’ stable star, multiple Group One-performed mare Babylon Berlin. It comes just three days after the father-son pair unveiled an exciting new talent with a brilliant four-length debut victory by Keegan at Cambridge on Wednesday.

“He was impressive,” Ben Foote said. “We’d kept our opinion of him under wraps a little bit, but we certainly did expect him to produce a performance like that.

“He’s always been very talented. He was up in Hong Kong with David Hall, who said he thought he’d win first-up at Sha Tin, but he had a bit of an injury and had to come back to New Zealand. He told us, ‘Don’t trial him – he knows what he’s doing. Just get him fit, take him to the races and have a bet. So that’s what we did.”

Foote is now eyeing the new series of $100,000 races that have been introduced this year on the Cambridge, Awapuni and Riccarton synthetic tracks in early August. These races are open to all horses that have had at least three starts on a synthetic track in New Zealand since May of last year, with fields selected based on horses’ performances on those all-weather surfaces during that time.

“He’s obviously got a lot of talent, so we can look at raising the bar a little bit,” Foote said. “There are those $35,000 MAAT races at Cambridge in late July, and then we might have a look at those new $100,000 races – possibly the one down at Awapuni (over 1400m on August 9).”

Meanwhile, Foote is looking forward to welcoming Babylon Berlin back to raceday action on Saturday. It will be the All Too Hard mare’s first start since the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) on New Year’s Day, in which she was a beaten favourite. She has since undergone a wind operation, then also underwent further treatment for an eye injury.

Babylon Berlin warmed up for Saturday’s race with an 850m trial at Waipa on April 30, which she won by four and a half lengths.

With eight wins, 13 placings and more than $600,000 in stakes – including runner-up finishes in the Railway, the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) and the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1200m) – Babylon Berlin’s accomplishments tower over her four rivals at Trentham on Saturday. She has been allotted a 62kg topweight, although apprentice jockey Ace Lawson-Carroll will reduce that impost to 60kg with his 2kg claim.

“It was a relief to see her trial like that at Waipa, I think she’s back to her old self,” Foote said. “She’s continued to go the right way since that trial too.

“I took her to Te Aroha last Friday for a gallop on the course proper, partly to get that track tested out for the stipes. I think her work that day was as good as I’ve seen from her, so I’m very happy with how she’s going.

“She’s in the truck behind me right now, so as long as she’s behaving herself, I think we’re on target for tomorrow.

“We’ve got no firm plans after this and we’ll see how she goes before we make a decision. We could send her over to Aussie, or we could freshen her up to have a crack at the spring. We’ll get this race out of the way first and then come up with a plan.”