Baller is back at Flemington

17 February 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

Queensland gelding Baller returns to Flemington for a straight-track Group 1 sprint campaign.

Tony Gollan is acutely aware of the task confronting Baller in Saturday's $1 million Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning, but Queensland's leading trainer is confident the benefit of his spring campaign will stand him in good stead.

Baller returns to the track that he ran so well at last spring, a campaign that included Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Stakes success and third placings in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes and Group 1 Champions Sprint.

At age seven, and with his third trainer, it was Baller's first experience on the Flemington straight track and Gollan, who took over training of Baller from Chris Waller in early 2021, always felt he would be suited there.

"He's just a lovely big, powerful animal who likes big tracks and a bit of room," Gollan said.

"He enjoyed his time here last spring. We worked out a schedule for him that worked with the racing; we spaced his runs, give him time off after each run and really target him for each sprint.

"He just kept turning up and running better and better each time until his best run, when he ran third in the big race at the end of spring, so we immediately set our sights to returning for the straight races this year.

"Whether he's good enough to win this race at 1000 (metres) – there are some champion sprinters in there – we don't know, but he's a good straight horse and he will race well."

Baller has drawn barrier eight in the 11-horse Lightning, which includes the two horses who beat him home in the Champions Sprint – Roch 'N' Horse (barrier two) and Nature Strip (one) – star filly Coolangatta (nine), Marabi (five), Bella Nipotina (seven) and I Wish I Win (four).

Only one of Baller's 32 starts have been at 1000 metres, when he finished sixth of eight in a benchmark 88 at his final start for Anthony Cummings before joining Chris Waller in early 2020, but Gollan hopes his love of the straight can lead to a good showing with Mark Zahra aboard.

"Mark knows him well and knows these races well, I would imagine he will want to follow Bella Nipotina wherever it went, then hopefully under the tempo of the race we can travel kindly in that position," he said.

"That's going to be the key, just how well he can travel at that 1000 metre tempo as opposed to six furlong (1200m) speed."

After the Lightning, Baller will have a three-week break before tackling the $1.5 million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on March 11.

Don't miss out on your chance to witness history as the world's best sprinter takes on all challengers in the world's best sprint race at Flemington on Saturday 18 February. Find out more and book your tickets to Black Caviar Lightning Race Day.