Gai Waterhouse has sights set on The Archer at Rockhampton

There is little doubt that Gai Waterhouse’s hunger for a winner is as keen as ever, and it stretches as far north as Rockhampton on Sunday when Surf Dancer lines up in Queensland’s richest regional race, The Archer.

In its second year, The Archer – worth $775,000 over 1300m – has attracted talent including Startantes, a Group 1 winner during the 2022 Queensland Winter Carnival, rising performers like Alpine Edge, and returning champion Emerald Kingdom.

First-up into this race, the field of which is decided by slot purchases, Surf Dancer began her spring preparation by winning the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) at Randwick in September.

Running on strongly late and beating home subsequent Group 1 The Epsom (1600m) winner Ellsberg, a good fresh performance from Surf Dancer is possible but Waterhouse concedes that the field has strength.

“He’s a horse that could easily win this race but it’s not easy to win,” Gai said while attending the pre-Archer function in Rockhampton.

“It’s a long way to come for no reason and there’s very good reasons to take this race on.

“We’re there with a good chance but I can’t say we’re a good thing.”

Despite her caution in making any lofty declarations, the market has Surf Dancer on the third line of betting at $6.50 behind race favourite Startantes at $3.90 with Emerald Kingdom at $5.50.

Placed in two barrier trials at Randwick in the lead-up, Surf Dancer has the additional challenge of winning for the first time below 1400-metres.

Nonetheless, the Waterhouse-Bott team believe the six-year-old gelding to be ridden by Regan Bayliss is up to the task and can add to The Archer’s growth as an event.

“They had the concept and I think the race will keep improving and growing,” Waterhouse adds.

“I’m sure of it.”

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