Da Gama To Explore Firmer Footing

By Dean Walsh

Smart three-year old Senhor Da Gama should appreciate the drop back from city grade when he contests the Benchmark 60 1280m at Canberra on the Acton track on Friday.

Trained at Canberra by Matt Dale, the Commands gelding has created a big impression in a 7 start career winning twice and placing in another with a runaway three length Randwick victory the highlight so far.

Although not placed in his two return runs in tough company in town after close to a 6 month break from the races, Dale will give Senhor Da Gama a chance to regain some confidence with an easier assignment on his home track which should provide a much firmer racing surface.

“The horse is going great but just hasn't been able to let down on the slow tracks so we basically know now to just steer clear of the wet tracks,” Dale said.

“You only have to look at his record to see his best runs have been on rock hard tracks so the Acton should give him a chance to hopefully regain some confidence and really find the line.”

Dale has been patient with the three-year old giving him time to mature and was pleased with both his efforts in town when resuming off the spell.

“He got beat less than two lengths first up when he raced outside the pace and then was only just over two lengths behind Triple Elegance at his next start so there's nothing wrong with his form,” he said.

“He does all his gallops on the Acton surface so that shouldn't be a problem and the 1280m should suit him perfectly third-up.”

Drawing barrier 11 but set to start from gate 9 with the scratchings of the emergencies, Dale expects the three-year old to race handy to the pace for leading rider Brendan Ward.

“There's a bit of pace in the race with Rick Worthington's horse usually going quickly so I’d expect to race in the first 3 or 4 and work into the race prior to the corner,” Dale said.

“He's a big strong horse so the weight wont be a concern and all going well I’m expecting him to be winning.”

Dale is yet to map a path for Senhor Da Gama but with a strong showing on Friday the gelding could easily end up in Brisbane on drier tracks or a return to Sydney if conditions suit.

“Now that I’ve worked out he doesn't appreciate the wet surface I’ll just look for the harder tracks and place him to his advantage,” Dale said.

“Whether that be back in Sydney or even in Brisbane I'll just wait and see how he goes on Friday because he still has to put the writing on the wall.”

Dale will also saddle up a further two live chances with maiden performers Didiyo and the well bred debutant Castelo Branco.

“Didiyo ran third at Wagga first up on bog track which he didn't entirely handle so a firmer track will probably suit him much better,” he said.

“He has drawn well and should figure in the finish along with Castelo Branco who ran second in a recent barrier trial,”

“He is by Zabeel and they usually take some time so whatever he does I’m sure he will improve on but in saying that he's drawn well and looks to have good ability.”

Dale, who is one of a number of emerging trainers currently based in Canberra has had a super season with 12 winners at Canberra alone sitting just 5 behind leader Nick Olive boasting a strike rate of better than a winner every three starters.