Originally at single-figures to take out their second Group 1 title in the Railway Stakes 2011, Neville Parnham’s talented Blackfriars four-year-old Playing God has continued to drift in the markets for Perth’s richest race held at Ascot tomorrow.
Winner of the Kingston Town Classic during last year’s Festival of Perth Racing, Playing God hasn’t been seen in the winner’s stall anywhere since their Magic Millions win at Ascot as a three-year-old back in February.
One of the most consistent and exciting WA gallopers of their age last season, Playing God collected plenty of silverware for connections during the summer carnival of 2010 taking out races including the Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) and Listed Aquanita Stakes (1800m) before their elite level success in the Kingston Town.
An interstate trip to Melbourne followed earlier this year where Playing God ran a respectable third in both the Group 1 Australian Guineas and Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington.
Returning home they recorded another Group 1 placing this time finishing second to Dreamaway in the WATC Derby (2400m) before being sent for a well-earned break.
Resuming at Belmont Park in August to run second to Idyllic Prince in the Goodwood Sprint, Playing God travelled to Melbourne for a second time for the spring where they had five starts.
Their best performance was a third to one-time Melbourne Cup fancy December Draw in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), and they were last seen finishing seven lengths away 11th in the iconic Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22.
Back to Ascot and back to the mile Parnham is expecting Playing God to be a much more competitive force on Saturday as they have their final run before defending their title in the $500,000 Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) on December 3.
Far from being a spent force, Parnham said Playing God has come through his Victorian campaign in excellent order and is ready to get back to the business of winning Group 1’s at home.
“I am extremely happy with my horse,” Parnham said.
“He travelled back from Victoria in perfect order and he has really thrived back on home soil.
“It’s been four weeks since his last run but he’s had some good gallops since and after Tuesday’s work I felt he was where he needed to be.
“He will run a mighty race.”
Parnham’s son Steven will ride the horse in the Railway and also confirmed that Playing God had returned home in top form.
“I was pleased with his efforts in Victoria against the top grade and since he has returned home he has really blossomed,” he said.
“It’s an exciting race this year and I am happy to be aboard my bloke.”
Playing God is definitely a class horse and they do tick a number of boxes heading into the Railway.
They boast one of the best Place Rates in the field with 70%, are the right age as a four-year-old with 4YO’s winning 21 of the last 52 Railway Stakes and five in the past decade and are one of only four horses in the field to have won at the track and distance before.
One thing they will have to overcome, however, is the hoodoo of topweights in the race.
Equally the heaviest rated runner this year on 57kg along with $16 chance Waratah’s Secret, if successful Playing God would break the weight carrying record currently held by 2009 Railway Stakes winner Snipers Bullet (56.5kg) since the metric system was introduced.
“When the weights (first) came out I was pleased with his weight, but unfortunately a few of the top weights went amiss and we now have to carry 57kg,” Parnham said.
“It’s not the end of the world.”
Drawn in barrier nine, Playing God will come into the perfect gate seven start if the emergencies come out which Parnham is happy with.
“The barrier looks ideal for him and I couldn’t be happier.”
While Grant Williams’ boom galloper Ranger dominates the Railway Stakes odds at Luxbet as the $3.60 favourite and Luckygray sits close on their heels at $5.50, it is Melbourne mare Avienus ($12) on the 53kg minimum that Parnham has tipped as a serious danger.
“A horse like Avineus looks well suited in my opinion,” he said.
The Mark Webb-trained Avienus also ran in the Cox Plate this year finishing second last, but she had 57kg on her back and looked better last-start when fourth in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Emirates Stakes Day.
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