Golden Eagle an equine State Of Origin says trainer

Gerald Ryan has declared the Golden Eagle a State Of Origin showdown as the cream of NSW’s four-year-olds, including his hope Ellsberg, prepare to take on some fierce interstate competition.

Four states will be represented in Saturday’s $7.5 million race with I’m Thunderstruck leading the charge for Victoria, Apache Chase travelling down from Queensland and South Australian Media Award backing up from her effort in The Invitation.

Add to the mix three recent imports and a New Zealand raider, and the Golden Eagle (1500m) is shaping as one of the most intriguing clashes of the year.

“Eliminating the imported horses because you don’t know them, I think it’s like a State Of Origin,” Ryan said.

“The horse from Queensland, the horses from Victoria and the horses from NSW.”

Not only is Ryan saddling up Ellsberg, he is also accommodating favourite I’m Thunderstruck for fellow trainer and friend Mick Price.

The last-start Toorak Handicap winner arrived in Sydney on Monday and Ryan expects him to be hard to beat.

“He looks very, very well,” Ryan said.

“I know Mick has had huge wraps on him for ages.”

Ryan has also held Ellsberg in high regard for some time.

Having trained his sire Spill The Beans, Ryan was drawn to Ellsberg as a yearling and went to $280,000 to secure him.

Aquis, which stood Spill The Beans, retained a 50 per cent interest but Ryan could not sell the remaining shares.

“We paid $280,000 for him and he was the most expensive Spill The Beans that ever went through (the sales ring),” Ryan said.

“He was very hard to sell because everyone said I paid too much money for a Spill The Beans.

“He’d been working with (stakes winner) Peltzer all the way through and he’d always shown really good ability but just needed a bit more time.

“We got permission to trial him and he trialled really well and then we sold him within 48 hours.”

His owners have enjoyed a tremendous ride ever since.

Having made his debut just over a year ago, Ellsberg has raced 11 times for four wins and six placings, his worst result a fourth in the Hawkesbury Guineas.

His consistency and class attracted the interest of Hong Kong buyers and Aquis, being in the business of trading thoroughbreds, wanted to sell, but the other owners wanted to keep him.

The two groups came to an agreement and the remaining owners pooled their cash and bought out Aquis’ share, an investment that will prove astute if Ellsberg can come home with the $4.1 million winner’s cheque on Saturday.

The Golden Eagle has been the horse’s target for 10 months and he has shaped well in two lead-up runs, taking out a benchmark race on resumption and finishing a narrow second in the Silver Eagle after being knocked off balance when a rival runner broke down.

Ryan says Ellsberg has improved again and his work on the Rosehill course proper last Saturday was “as good as I’ve ever seen him work”.

At $9, Ellsberg is one of only four runners at single-figure odds along with fellow Sydney-trained galloper Private Eye ($6.50), Apache Chase ($7) and I’m Thunderstruck, who remains a $4 favourite.

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