Adrian Bott will head to Rosehill with a trio of black-type runners, but it is an unraced two-year-old who has lit up the trial track that could outshine them all.
Bott and training partner Gai Waterhouse will start defending titleholder Dajraan (GB) in the Group 3 Festival Stakes (1500m), along with stayers Serpentine (Ire) and I’m A Dirty Rascal (Ire) in the Listed Christmas Cup (2400m).
Dajraan (GB) won the Festival Stakes 12 months ago; picture sportpix.com.au
They will also unveil well-named Justify (USA) youngster Storm Boy, a colt out of Fastnet Rock mare Pelican, who has been marked as a $1.95 favourite for the Kia Ora Prague Handicap (1100m) following two brilliant trial wins.
While Storm Boy will have the challenge of conceding race experience to four of his six rivals, Bott says he has shown enough ability for them to be optimistic.
“He has looked very impressive in what we’ve seen so far,” Bott said. “A couple have got the advantage of race experience on Saturday, but he has looked to do everything right from what we’ve seen to date.
“He is a big, imposing colt, he has taken good improvement off both those trials, so he’s nice and forward and hopefully ready to go.”
While some horses trial under their own steam, Storm Boy has been encouraged in both hit-outs. Bott says the purpose of that has been twofold — to bring the colt’s fitness up to the mark and to teach him how to respond under pressure.
“They’ve been educational, he’s been taught under pressure, and he is a bigger style of colt, so those solid trials have helped to really bring his fitness along to a point he’s needed to get to,” he said.
While Storm Boy is at the start of his career, Dajraan (GB) will be trying to resurrect his after a patchy 12-months following his Festival Stakes victory last year. He returns for a title defence on Saturday and Bott is looking for a much-improved effort on his last in The Hunter (1300m).
“He was first-up in the Hunter and the style of that race, and the way it was run, brought him undone pretty early in the piece. Just chasing a hot speed,” Bott said. “He was no doubt disappointing there, [as] I was hoping to see a lot more from him, but we didn’t necessarily expect the race to be run in that manner, which made it difficult.
“Hopefully we can see some good improvement second-up and out to a more suitable distance, so there are a few positives.
“I’d love to see him get back to the form he was in twelve months ago and that’s probably where he needs to be getting to in fairness.”
Bott said Dajraan (GB) would need to feature in the finish on Saturday to be any chance of backing up in The Ingham (1600m) seven days later.