Cuneen reunited with Group One star

Racing Desk
5 October 2017

Racha Cuneen has moved from standby jockey into the prime seat as he reunites with Group One winner La Diosa at Riccarton on Saturday.

Cuneen was La Diosa’s regular rider during her successful spring campaign last year, culminating in the pair combining for their first Group One win in the NZ 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.

La Diosa Photo: Trish Dunell

That was Cuneen’s last raceday ride on La Diosa as the daughter of So You Think then trekked to Sydney during the autumn and was ridden by Jason Collett when she won the first of her four starts, the Gr.2 Surround Stakes (1400m).

Cuneen went on to win another Group One, the Gr.1 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) on Signify, then decided to try his luck on the Gold Coast leaving the mount on La Diosa this campaign to be picked up by last season’s champion jockey Chris Johnson, who has ridden her in two trials and was booked for her planned fresh-up run at Riccarton a fortnight ago.

A wet track resulted in La Diosa’s withdrawal from that open sprint won by Maybe Miami (a race rival again on Saturday) and instead trainers Mandy and Matt Brown have targeted the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile Prelude (1400m) as the kick-off. That decision left the way clear for Cuneen to be reunited with the top-class mare.

“Chris has gone for Son Of Maher so Racha gets back on her,” Matt Brown said. “It’s worked out well for Racha. He has been coming out and riding some work for us and he rode her in work this morning (Thursday) and was very pleased with her. He says she feels much stronger.”

Cuneen came to New Zealand for that last Riccarton meeting on September 23 and, after a brief trip back to Brisbane, he is now basing himself in the south for the next month or so.

“He plans to ride through to (NZ) Cup week then may go back to Brisbane,” Brown said. “It’s good to have him back for now. He knows the mare so well.”

After withdrawing La Diosa from her planned engagement last month, the Browns opted to start her at the Rangiora trials a few days later and she ran a quiet second to Aspen Lass over 1150 metres.

“She trialled well and we’re more than happy with her,” Brown said. “She’s ready to run a big race on Saturday. The track is at a Dead 4 at the moment and it could come back. It should be ideal for her.”

La Diosa is being set for the Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile on November 15 and through Saturday’s race in good order she will round off her preparation with a start in the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile Trial (1400m) back at Riccarton on October 28.

The Browns will also be represented in another of the main events on Saturday, the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial. Their hopes rest with the maiden River Run, a son of Pour Moi who is nominated for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld NZ 2000 Guineas.

River Run recorded two wins and a third in his first three trials then ran eighth in his only start behind stablemate Greenpark Gem at Riccarton last month. Since then he has finished third in a Rangiora trial.

“He’s a horse we’ve always had a lot of time for, but he’s a wee bit immature,” Brown said. “This will be a chance to see how he performs against some good ones. It’s a bit or trial and error with him.” – NZ Racing Desk

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