Morphettville-based trainer Richard Jolly is confident his smart Mossman four-year-old Stirling Grove is back to full fitness ahead of their Saturday assignment in the Doveton Stakes 2012 at Caulfield, the early favourite having recovered from the minor health issue that saw them miss their last race.
The former Group 3 winning gelding was withdrawn from the Standish Handicap, won by Catapulted, at Flemington on Monday after being installed at the top of the odds for the 1200 metre sprint due to a stomach upset.
Taking no chances, Jolly gave his talented $417,000 earner the chance to rest up and recover and is now keen to give them another shot at black-type glory in the $100,000 Listed Doveton Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.
“He was just a little bit off colour the day before the Standish which was probably brought on through the heat,” Jolly said.
“He’s fine now and at least we have another race to fall back on.”
Jolly added that bypassing the Standish Handicap may have been a blessing in disguise and that the Mark Kavanagh-trained winner would have been very hard to beat.
“The way Catapulted won I don’t know whether he (Stirling Grove) would have beaten him on the day,” Jolly said.
A winner of one of their two previous starts at Caulfield, third to Black Caviar in their other Caulfield test in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes (1000m) back in October, Stirling Grove was last seen finishing three-quarters-of-a-length away second to Down Under boy in the Emirates Airlines Handicap (1400m) at Flemington on November 5.
Prior to that they were far from disgraced with beaten less than two lengths crossing eighth behind Sister Madly in the Group 2 Salinger Stakes (1400m) on Derby Day, a good run considering they were drawn in the extreme outside barrier 14 of 14.
“He was close up in the Salinger but it was not a great ride (by Craig Williams) and he should have finished closer and then he backed up and only just got beaten,” Jolly said.
Stirling Grove showed Jolly exactly what he was hoping to see with a strong piece of work on Wednesday morning, Jolly also pleased in the smaller Doveton Stakes field this year.
“As it has turned out it is only a small (eight horse) field on Saturday and the horse galloped on Wednesday morning and is spot on,” he said.
Jolly named the $350,000 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Blue Diamond Stakes Day, February 25, as the major aim for Stirling Grove this Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.
“We will just get over Saturday and revise things and see what the best option will be but in the back of my mind I’d like to have him ready for the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield,” Jolly said.
In the latest Doveton Stakes odds Stirling Grove has again opened the punters’ pick paying $3.40 to win through Luxbet.
Their biggest danger is perceived to be defending Doveton Stakes champion First Command who has firmed in from $4 to $3.80 in the markets over the past day.
The other single-figure chances in the race are then Clinton McDonald’s Second Effort ($5.50), Standish Handicap runner-up Cascabel ($7) and last start winner at the track and distance Cat’s Pyjamas ($7).
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