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Christo’s testing Cup comeback

Trainer Mark Delbridge isn’t about to die wondering with Christo Bale, with the versatile star to return from an injury break in Saturday night’s heats of the TAB Australian Cup (525m) at The Meadows.

Christo Bale, $4 second elect with TAB in heat seven, is better known for his middle-distance exploits, winning the Group 2 McKenna Memorial (595m), finishing second in the Group 1 Hume Cup (600m) and running fourth in the Group 1 Sale Cup (650m).

But the powerhouse galloper is by no means out of place in elite sprinting company, especially at The Meadows.

He ran third against the best of the best in the Group 1 Topgun (525m) last November, while he also finished behind superstar Simon Told Helen in both the Maturity Classic (525m) and Silver Chief (525m) finals at Group 1 level.

“He is three years old now and while he’s probably going as good as ever, I’m not sure about him over the 500,” Mark Delbridge admitted.

“He’s not brilliant early over 500 and I started putting him over 600 and 650 because he was getting too far back. He’s always rattling home but it’s too late.

“He’s racing against the best sprinters all the time and the good ones get too far in front.”

Christo Bale hasn’t raced since January 9 when he pulled up with a hock issue after finishing unplaced as odds-on favourite in the Seaside Distance Challenge (650m) at Warrnambool.

“I gave him a couple of trials over the shorts at Ballarat and he went 17.50sec-odd and then 17.29sec, which is absolutely flying. Then he ran around 24.80sec in a post-to-post at The Meadows and broke 12sec in the run home.”

“He received a nomination for the Rookie Rebel last week, but he wasn’t ready for a 600,” Delbridge explained.

“Saturday is his first run back but he’s been trialling well.

“I gave him a couple of trials over the shorts at Ballarat and he went 17.50sec-odd and then 17.29sec, which is absolutely flying. Then he ran around 24.80sec in a post-to-post at The Meadows and broke 12sec in the run home.

“My first thought when I looked at the heats was two terrible boxes, with Christo Bale drawing five and Nihari Bale getting seven.

“If he wins it would be terrific – it’s cutthroat, so you’ve got to win – and as long as he doesn’t get whacked or pushed wide into the first turn, I suppose he’s chance.”

Delbridge’s second Cup contender, Nihari Bale, is a $41 outsider in heat three and the Balliang conditioner gives him little hope of toppling last start Group 1 Temlee (525m) hero Wow, the $2.70 favourite.

“No hope,” was Delbridge’s forthright appraisal.

“He needed to draw one, two or three and even then I’d still probably say no against a dog like Wow.

“A lot of his form is from one or two. He ran 29.83sec off the red at The Meadows so he can run but he just hasn’t got the zip to get across from out there. Although I suppose miracles do happen!”

WATCH: Christo Bale (3) demonstrated his versatility when overpowering WA star Zack Monelli (7) in a heat of the Sale Cup (650m) in December.

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