Talented Group 1 winning Western Australian galloper Playing God will return to Flemington this Saturday to take on a star-studded field including early 2011 Melbourne Cup favourite Lights Of Heaven in the $300,000 Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
Neville Parnham’s Blackfriars gelding Playing God has been one of the most impressively consistent horses in Perth’s Group races over the past season, and also showed their spring potential with two excellent elite level placings in Melbourne during the autumn.
After winning both the Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) and Listed Aquanita Stakes (1800m) at Ascot last November, Playing God hit the headlines and the big time with their maiden thoroughbred major winning the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) on December 4.
They returned in February with a commanding first-up win in the Perth Magic Millions 3YO Trophy (1400m), which earned Playing God a shot at interstate glory.
Parnham took his stable ace to Victoria for the first time during the autumn, Playing God contesting two Group 1 features at Flemington finishing third both times.
The first was to Shamrocker in the Australian Guineas (1600m) on March 5 when he was disappointed for a run and also struck interference, then next start they ran third to former Melbourne Cup winner Shocking in the Australian Cup (2000m) on March 12.
Travelling back to WA, Playing God ran twice more including their second to Dreamaway in the Group 1 WATC Derby (2400m).
Given a well-deserved spell, they resumed as a four-year-old in the Listed Goodwood Sprint (1300m) at Belmont Park a fortnight ago, coming within half a length of winner Idyllic Prince when finishing a first-up second.
This Saturday Playing God will take their next step towards the riches of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival by contesting the weight-for-age Makybe Diva Stakes.
Playing God is already in Melbourne and worked at Flemington on the grass this morning for the first time since arriving.
On Thursday they will be given a final gallop before heading into the Makybe Diva Stakes.
“He has settled in really well,” Parnham said.
“We came to Melbourne in the autumn for two reasons.
“First was the great prize money and second to see if Playing God would cope with being away from home.
“He settled beautifully back then and I hope he will do the same (this spring).”
Playing God has been nominated for all the spring majors including the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15 and the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22.
In the Caulfield Cup betting odds at Luxbet, Playing God is sitting as a $51 roughie while for what is likely to be their grand final, the 2011 Cox Plate, they are paying $41.
Without a genuine weight-for-age champion in the mix, dual Cox Plate champion So You Think likely to miss this year’s spring carnival for a shot at the Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe in France, Parnham believes the Cox Plate 2011 is an achievable and even winnable goal for Playing God.
“We have had a look at things and there really doesn’t seem to be an outstanding weight-for-age horse so we will go down that path and hope he can end up in the Cox Plate,” he said.
In the Makybe Diva Stakes on Saturday, Playing God is due to be ridden by Parnham’s son Steve.
Flemington race fields for the weekend are out tomorrow and will be published here at Races.com.au so stay tuned.
In the meantime, get ready for all the spring betting action by opening your online account with the Tabcorp-owned and trusted bookmaker Luxbet.