By Glenn Davis
Trainer Matt Dunn is hopeful Sovereign Nation can defy the record books and stake a claim for the major winter carnival sprints in the $150,000 Listed Weetwood Handicap at Toowoomba on Saturday.
Sovereign Nation had his first start for Dunn when an unlucky second to Balboa Rocks in the Listed Sunshine Coast Cup on January 26.
The former Melbourne sprinter is second topweight with 59.5kgs, half a kilogram less than the Chris Waller-trained Cellarman in the 1200-metre Darling Downs feature.
The Weetwood Handicap has not been a happy hunting ground for horses high up in the weights.
No horse has won with more weight since Seawinne who lumped 60kgs in 1995 and Kidman’s Cove who carried 59.5kgs in 1997, the same weight as Sovereign Nation.
The only other winner to carry a similar weight since the race turned metric in 1973 was Tiny’s Finito who was successful with 59kgs in 1991.
Dunn can’t recall having a Weetwood starter and is happy with the progress of Sovereign Nation, who drew barrier 1.
“I only had him for about a month before he had his first run for me in the Sunshine Coast Cup,” Dunn said.
“He got stuck and couldn’t get out and should probably have won.”
Dunn and connections were in two minds whether to start Sovereign Nation because of the tricky undulating Clifford Park track.
“He’s got to start off somewhere as he’s being nominated for all the major sprints during the winter including the Stradbroke and the fringe races,” he said.
“He’s been a very good horse and he’s got a good record fresh.
“His weight is probably a bit of an issue looking forward to some of the bigger sprint races,”
The son of Encosta De Lago, who was previously trained by David Hayes and Tom Dabernig in the south, pleased Dunn when fourth in a Gold Coast barrier trial last month.
“He only had three weeks off after the Sunshine Coast run and it was good soft trial he had a few weeks ago,” Dunn said.
Dunn has booked Ryan Maloney to partner the six-year-old who had won five of his 31 starts in Melbourne before heading to Dunn’s Murwillumbah stable.
He ran second in the Group One Toorak Handicap and fourth in the Group One Rupert Clarke Stakes in 2017 and also ran fourth as a three-year-old in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas in 2015.
His last win was in the Listed March Stakes at Flemington last year.