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It seems that all rival trainers have conceded they are fighting for second-spot behind Black Caviar next race, Saturday’s CF Orr Stakes 2012 at Caulfield, including ace Ascot horseman Neville Parnham who prepares Playing God.
A well-bred Blackfriars four-year-old out of Rubiton mare Dolly Will Do, Playing God was yesterday one of 13 gallopers nominated for the $400,000 Group 1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m), the opening elite level in Australia for 2012.
The 2012 CF Orr Stakes will be host to Peter Moody’s undefeated turf queen who vies for win No. 18 and who also sees the 1400m for the first time.
One person with their fingers crossed that Black Caviar may be a little vulnerable going up in distance this weekend is Parnham.
Parnham trains one of Perth’s most resilient and determined runners, Playing God a dual Group 1 winner of the Kingston Town Classic (1800m).
Last spring Playing God travelled interstate to Melbourne for the second time for a five-run campaign that included four Group 1 events.
After an eye-catching fourth, beaten less than a length by Littorio in the Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington, Playing God when on to finish fifth in the Underwood, third in the Turnbull, sixth in the Caulfield Stakes and then 11th to Pinker Pinker in the famous Cox Plate over 2040m at Moonee Valley.
Returning home they were trashed nine and a half lengths by winner-upon-protest Luckygray in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m).
Showing an incredible bounce-back ability, however, Playing God backed up a fortnight later to win his second straight Kingston Town Classic.
“He certainly appreciated a little bit of a mix-up in his routine,” Parnham said.
“If we can keep him in that frame of mind I’m sure he’ll acquit himself very well in Melbourne.
“As he proved over our summer carnival he can bounce back pretty quickly.
“He’s a nice sound horse who’s bounced back really well from the Kingston Town.”
Yesterday Playing God showed they were ready to get back to race conditions and line-up in Melbourne again when they beat home the Grant Williams-trained Ranger by a head in their 1000m Ascot hitout.
While terrific in their resumption trial, Parnham is very aware of the tough test his horse faces coming up against Black Caviar on Saturday.
“He pulled up really well,” Parnham said.
“He had a little bit of a blow after the hitout but we expected that because he’s only had one gallop in the lead-in up to that so he’s spot on.
“He had a month off but he’s done some good grounding work and a lot of beach work, he’s a happy horse and he’s ready to head into a race.
“He’ll run in the CF Orr Stakes against a good mare.
“We’ll have a good one to chase but maybe his next two runs will be better.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s going and I’m looking forward to Saturday but obviously he is not going to beat her.”
After the CF Orr Parham has mapped out two more confirmed runs for Playing God with the $200,000 Group 1 St George Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on Blue Diamond Stakes Day February 25 before they again target the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 3.
After a smart first-up win in last year’s Magic Millions Perth 3YO Trophy, Playing God went to Melbourne and ran a credible third to Shamrocker in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) and then third again this time to former Melbourne Cup winner Shocking in the 2011 Australian Cup.
“He’s heading towards the Australian Cup again so he’ll run in that race (the CF Orr) first then back up a fortnight later,” Parnham said.
“I think the St George is 1800 (metres) then we go to into the 2000 metre Australian Cup.”
In the current futures Australian Cup odds at Luxbet Playing God is rated a $26 chance, markets led by Americain at $4.20.
Parnham said there was a good possibility that Playing God would continue beyond that and target the $2 million Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on April 21 during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“He’s nominated for the Doncaster so we’ll just see how he gets through these three runs,” Parnham said.
“It’s not going to be a long campaign because I want to give him another spell, a good spell, before he heads off to the spring again.”
Doncaster Mile betting at Luxbet has boom filly Atlantic Jewel as the $6 favourite over Golden Rose hero Manawanui ($9) while Playing God pays a juicy $51.
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