Top Ascot-based horseman Fred Kersley yesterday made the decision to accept his in-form six-year-old Grand Nirvana for the 2011 Winterbottom Stakes, the galloper as such dropping out of contention for the $1 million Railway Stakes also running at Ascot Racecourse this Saturday.
Scenic gelding Grand Nirvana ran a credible fourth in last year’s Railway Stakes (1600m) but will not be given the chance to improve on that run over the mile this year.
Instead the always gallant galloper will take on a crack field of sprinters in the $500,000 Group 1 Burswood Winterbottom Stakes (1200m).
Kersley said his decision to switch from the Railway to the Winterbottom was in part to do with the rising of the weights for the Railway after original top-weights Albert The Fat and Wall Street both defected.
“The raising in the Railway weights has seen me switch,” Kersley said.
“You can’t win with those weights.”
Grand Nirvana has always been considered more of a miler than a straight out sprinter, but Kerlsey will give them the chance to shine over a shorter distance on the weekend as they look to score their first win at Ascot since the Fairetha Stakes back in November of 2008.
Winner of the Group 3 Roma Cup (1200m) and Group 3 Belmont Sprint (1400m) earlier this year at Belmont Park, Grand Nirvana has been in strong form this season.
They resumed on October 22 finishing a nose away second to Waratah’s Secret in the Group 3 Prince of Wales Stakes (1200m) before their last-start second when beaten two lengths to Ranger in the Group 2 Lee Steere Stakes (1400m) at Ascot on November 5.
“He went 1200 metres then 1400 meters and that gave us the option to drop back to 1200 metres or on to 1600 metres,” Kersley explained.
“I think he can switch back to the 1200 metres and obviously we won’t do much with him.”
Running in the Winterbottom has ensured Grand Nirvana will not have to face off against either the David Harrison-trained Waratah’s Secret or Grant Williams’ Ranger again, both accepted for the Railway Stakes.
Final fields for the three Group races at Ascot’s Festival of Perth Racing meeting on Saturday were released on Monday, Grand Nirvana one of 14 horses in the Winterbottom Stakes field.
The $1 million Group 1 Carlton Draught Railway Stakes (1600m) attracted a full field of 16 starters plus two emergencies with Neville Parnham’s Group 1 winner Playing God leading the acceptors.
In the futures Railway Stakes odds at Luxbet Grand Nirvana was rated a $12 chance while in the pre-field Winterbottom Stakes betting markets they were rated an $11 chance behind clear favourite Ortensia.
Updated markets following the release of the final fields will open at Luxbet shortly, so get ready for to lock in your favourites over the summer at the best prices by signing up with Australia’s leading online bookmaker now.