Tony McEvoy not ready to pop the Kourk on French stayer just yet

Tony McEvoy has had more success than most with the imported European stayer, but expectations are being kept in check with French-bred Kourkam before the group 3 JRA Plate at Randwick on Saturday.

“In this field if he ran top five it would be a pass mark,” McEvoy said.

Bookmakers are expecting the Albury Gold Cup winner to run a whole lot better than McEvoy’s top-five assessment, with Ladbrokes installing him an equal third favourite at $7.50 behind Leebaz ($3.10) on Thursday evening.

Kourkam is the latest in a string of McEvoy-trained horses to be plucked from the northern hemisphere and measure up in stakes company in recent years. Big Memory (Herbert Power) and Le Roi (Queen Elizabeth) both won at group level during the Melbourne spring carnival, but McEvoy has cautioned against elevating Kourkam into the same bracket.

“He’s not a Le Roi or a Big Memory, but he’s showing promise and I think next year will be his best year,” McEvoy said. “He’s a lightly fleshed horse and I think he’s still coming on.

“I haven’t overtaxed him and this is another step up in grade for him [on Saturday], but everything I’ve asked him to do he’s done very well. I was considering the Brisbane Cup, but I took two horses to Brisbane the other day and I was very nervous about the ground.

“They put up a good [4] and it raced like a soft [7]. The tracks are overraced and full of sand. It’s very false ground. I’m not sure I want to put him through that, so my plans at this stage [after the JRA Plate] are a little up in the air.”

What McEvoy can be a little more sure about is that Kourkam, to be ridden by his nephew Kerrin, is heading in the right direction after a grinding win in the Albury Gold Cup last start.

Having bungled the start, the five-year-old American Post gelding was forced to wheel to the outside and come with a rush to notch his first stakes success since arriving in Australia.

“I thought there was a lot of merit in the win,” McEvoy said. “[The Albury track] is like a saucer – it never stops turning. It’s like a ring on your finger and your only straight is the home straight and the rest is an absolute circle.

“We thought he would be in the first half-dozen, but he missed the start and Kerrin showed a cool head and was waiting for something to take him into the race. Nothing was happening so he had to do it all himself.”



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