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Horse Tales: Go Wandji the real deal?

22 December 2021

Is Toowoomba’s latest discovery Go Wandji the real deal? It’s a question that won’t be answered now until the rising star makes the transition through the restricted ranks to open company and possibly during the Queensland Winter Carnival.

 

DSC-1607.JPGBy Glenn Davis

That’s the ultimate goal for Go Wandji following the gelding’s stunning string of victories prior to Christmas.

Go Wandji looked like being just an ordinary run of the mill country sprinter until he burst onto the city scene, winning at Doomben in October.

What surprised all, bar his trainer Tom Dougall, was the manner in which he demolished a Benchmark race over 1350m.

Heavily backed to start at $3.00, Go Wandji unleashed a paralysing finish to win by four-and-a-half lengths.

And what also stunned onlookers was how easily he won after being beaten at Warwick at his previous start by the Matt Kropp-trained Festival Prince.

However, the Warwick defeat didn’t panic Dougall who has always had a good opinion of Go Wandji.

“He got too far back at Warwick and it was too short for him and the horse that beat him (Festival Prince) looks to be pretty good,” Dougall said.

Festival Prince later franked the form, winning his next two starts at Ipswich and Toowoomba to take his record to five wins from six starts at time of writing.

Go Wandji proved his Doomben win was no fluke with another dominant performance to win a Class 3 at Eagle Farm in early November.

Unlike his previous win when ridden back in the field by Larry Cassidy, Go Wandji showed his versatility sitting off the speed before collaring the early leaders in the straight to score another effortless win over 1400m.

Immediately after the Eagle Farm victory, Dougall began plotting a course to the Queensland Winter Carnival this year.

A midweek race at Doomben in late November was pencilled in for Go Wandji, but Dougall’s plan was thwarted by heavy rain that washed out the meeting.

Dougall surprised many with his decision to lower his sights to the city midweeks. He planned to test Go Wandji in last month’s The Gateway at Eagle Farm, which carried an automatic entry for the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap in June.

However, the midweek washout forced a change of plans with Dougall deciding to immediately spell Go Wandji for the summer.

“There were a few reasons to go to the midweeks before The Gateway as I was mindful he’d been in work a long time,” Dougall said.

“At the time there were no signs of him training off or anything like that and he hadn’t taken a backward step since his win at Eagle Farm. But all those plans went out the window when the meeting was washed out.

“The Gateway might have been too strong for him but we’ll never know. I still believe he has a lot to learn and he’s showed that in his races.

“He’s been trained conservatively and hasn’t had an abundance of hard work on the tracks.

“He had a bit of a knee action early on and he’s still learning on the job.”

Go Wandji

Go Wandji, a son of Wandji, was bought by Dougall’s father, John, for only $20,000 at the Scone Inglis sale in 2019.

“Dad had a lot of good horses when he was a trainer,” Dougall said.

“He trained a horse called Todfrost who won 17 of his first 21 starts.

“He’s had a lot of other good horses to win in the city and I wouldn’t say Go Wandji is any better than those.”

Dougall has been training for 22 years and had big expectations of Go Wandji from the day he first spotted him.

“He was a real nice looker when I first spotted him,” Dougall said.

“He was very strong and athletic and he showed a lot of ability from day one.”

Dougall is a great carer of horses and never rushed Go Wandji in his early days and gave him his first start at Dalby in February last year, strolling to a decisive win over 1200m in Maiden grade. He then backed up the win three weeks later, scoring by more than three lengths at his second start at Chinchilla.

The early wins earned Go Wandji a well-deserved winter break and he wasn’t sighted again until he won a Class Three at Warwick on August 2.

Dougall then tested Go Wandji for the first time in the metropolitan arena where he finished a gallant third in a Class 3 set weights race at Eagle Farm on August 21 prior to his Warwick defeat.

Dougall trains only a small team at Toowoomba and Go Wandji’s win at Doomben was the trainer’s first in the metropolitan area since Lady Agulhas won at Eagle Farm in 2013.

Go Wandji has attracted interest from overseas and Hong Kong buyers, but so far he’s not for sale.

“I’ve had a few calls to sell him but he’s Dad’s horse and it’s up to him if he wants to sell or not,” Dougall said.

“Dad is 75 now and he’s having a lot of fun with him at the moment.

“Horses like him don’t come around very often.”

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Dougall believes the sky is the limit for Go Wandji if the gelding keeps improving, but he won’t be rushing him for the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap this year.

“He’s a big raw fella who will get further, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

“He needs to keep improving and who knows if that will happen.

“Some horses reach a certain level and just don’t improve further.”

Dougall believes missing The Gateway might be a blessing in disguise.

“He’s spelling at the moment and won’t race until mid-March,” he said.

“The Stradbroke is a long way off now that we missed The Gateway and he’ll probably be kept for the second-tier races in the winter.

“I still believe he’s got a fair bit of ring craft to learn and the Stradbroke this year could be a bridge too far.

“He’s still got a nice rating, which will give us the chance to see what sort of form he can get back to.”

While Dougall believe next year’s Stradbroke is a more realistic goal for Go Wandji, he won’t hesitate to try to win a ballot free race into Queensland’s premier sprint if the opportunity arises.

Only time will tell now if Go Wandji is the real deal.