High hopes for “Prima”

Victorian trainer Shannon Hope reckons what “Prima” lacks in size, he makes up for in heart.

Hope describes the pre-post favourite for Saturday’s Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes at Morphettville as little more than a pony.

But the three-year-old’s stature has not stopped him from proving competitive at the highest level from just a handful of starts.

He has been placed twice at Group 2 level — both behind super colt Mongolian Khan — from six starts to earn a reputation as the best maiden galloper in New Zealand.

“If there’s such a thing as the runt of the litter, he’s the runt,” said Hope, who trains Prima in partnership with his father, Lee.

“He’d be 15 hands perhaps and there’s not much of him. He doesn’t look like he’s grown since he was one.”

Prima, who is still owned in New Zealand, hasn’t raced since finished a close-up second at Ellerslie earlier this month for his former trainer Doug Cave.

TattsBet have marked Prima favourite, ahead of the Mark Kavanagh-trained Magicool and Nick Smart’s highly promising gelding October Date, in early markets for Saturday’s $115,000 feature over 2020m, even though he has drawn the outside barrier in the 16-horse field.

“I wasn’t planning on him drawing the outside but he usually jumps brilliantly,” Hope said.

“He’ll go forward. I hope he can work across them and find a good spot.

“One thing I can tell you … he’s not very big — but he can stay.

“And if it’s wet, he’ll more than make his presence felt.”

Hope said Prima had settled in well at his Seymour stables since making the trip from New Zealand just over a week ago. He was also accompanied by his regular track rider, who is on a brief working holiday and will stay with the horse until early next week.

“His form is very good in New Zealand against good horses. I sure wasn’t going to pass him up when we got offered him,” he said.

“He doesn’t have a lot of luck in his races. He seems to get buffeted around a lot and I think that’s due to the fact that he’s small.”

If Prima performs to expectations, he will press on to the Group 1 $500,000 SA Derby at Morphettville on May 9, where he is likely to clash with a number of runners from Saturday’s race. Much-travelled Victorian jockey Dean Yendall has been booked to ride Prima in both races.

“I’m expecting him to be onwards and upwards to the Derby after Saturday,” Hope said.

“I booked Dean because he’s ridden a lot of winners in Adelaide and he’s not very big himself and I thought he’d suit Prima’s style of racing.

“Dean was also willing to commit to the Derby, which was important to us.

The Hope team have been no strangers to black-type success in recent months, highlighted by their first Group 1 victory when “Fenway” won the “Vinery Stud Stakes” at Rosehill on March 28.

Over the past two months they have also won the Group 2 “Angus Armanasco” Stakes and the Group 3 “Kevin Hayes” Stakes with star 3YO filly, “Sabatini”. The Group 3 “Frances Tressady” Stakes with “Madam Gangster” and the Listed “MMS Security” stakes with “Pittsburgh Flyer”.

“Fenway and Sabatini” will join “Prima” for their Group 1 assignments in Adelaide on May 2nd.

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