Chris Symons will make a timely return from suspension to ride lightly-raced three-year-old Red Rain in the Sandown Guineas after James Winks jumped off the colt to ride Amah Rock.
Winks has ridden Red Rain all of his five starts but bailed out of his biggest assignment yet in Saturday’s 1600-metre Group Two event.
Co-trainer Simon Zahra said the move was surprising given Winks’ history with the horse.
“He has ridden him every run and all his work, saying he’s a Group One horse, but he got off him on Wednesday morning,” Zahra said.
“It’s hard to understand but good luck to him.”
Symons, who was suspended for careless riding on Melbourne Cup Day, has enjoyed a good part of his success with the Mat Ellerton-Zahra stable.
Amah Rock and Red Rain were rivals in last Saturday’s Listed Hilton Hotels Stakes (1400m) at Flemington with Red Rain finishing sixth, two lengths behind third-placed Amah Rock.
TAB Sportsbet has Amah Rock third favourite at $8.50 behind Carbine Club Stakes winner Galah ($2.80) and Mahisara ($5) while Red Rain is at $13.
Like several Guineas runners, Red Rain is a query at 1600 metres but Zahra believes he can be competitive.
He said Red Rain should be able to take a more forward position at Sandown from a favourable gate (six) after drawing wide barriers at his last two starts.
“He hasn’t really drawn a barrier most of his life but the one thing he has in his favour tomorrow is the gate,” Zahra said.
“He’s had to go back from wide draws his last two runs and both times the races haven’t been run to suit.”
Red Rain won his race debut at Bendigo in April and first-up this campaign showed an exciting turn of foot to score easily by more than two lengths in restricted grade at Ballarat.
Next start he got too far back when fifth in the Group Three Red Anchor Stakes (1200m) won by flying filly Karuta Queen and last Saturday at Flemington made up a lot of ground in the straight.
“We just want him to jump out, take a position and see what he can do,” Zahra said.
“If he can use that turn of foot off the front like he did at Ballarat he is going to be hard to catch if he runs the mile.
“He is probably a preparation away mentally and we always thought be was going to be a better colt in the autumn, but we will get a bit of a guide tomorrow.
“If he runs a mile we will head to the (Group One) Australian Guineas with him in March, if not he will stick to the sprints.”
Red Rain is a son of Charge Forward, best known for his sprinting stock although he did sire this year’s Group Three Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m) winner Sabrage who was also third in the Victoria Derby (2500m).