Matthew Smith will saddle-up one of the top fancies in Saturday’s Festival Stakes 2012 at Rosehill Gardens, the Warwick Farm-based trainer confident classy mare Cabernet has what it takes to secure back-to-back black types this campaign.
Al Maher six-year-old Cabernet posted her sixth career win from 21 starts on November 17, her first at stakes level and first since joining Smith’s operation having previously been prepared by Grahame Begg, when she beat home Group 2 winner Skyerush in the Listed Summoned Stakes (1500m) at Sandown.
She will run over the same distance on Saturday this time in the $100,000 Listed Festival Stakes (1500m), Cabernet the equal $6 favourite in the bookmaker.com.au markets along with the Peter Snowden-trained Galah.
The last time Cabernet raced at Rosehill she finished a brave sixth when beaten four lengths by champion mare More Joyous in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1500m) and while it is an open field on Saturday, the class of the Festival Stakes is definitely below that elite level field.
Smith, former assistant trainer to great Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien early in his career, has also worked for Niall O’Callaghan in American and was stable foreman for ‘Cup’s King’ Bart Cummings for half a decade.
It is this experience that has helped him get Cabernet back in the winners stall, a feat he hopes to repeat on Saturday.
“I had seen Cabernet win quite a few times in Sydney and always had a very high opinion of the mare,” Smith said.
“She is a good, stakes-class race mare and I saw it as a great opportunity to be given the chance to train a mare with that sort of ability.
“The owners felt it might help her having a change of scenery and at Warwick Farm you can do that by taking her off the track and work her in a different environment.
“So, I was really positive about training Cabernet and having learned from past experiences, straight away I had a plan about how I would get her back to racing and in good form.
“I took her along quietly, gave her a nice, slow preparation with the aim of trying to get her into the back end of the Melbourne spring carnival nice and fresh and on the way up in her campaign, not coming to the end of it.”
Cabernet debuted for Smith at Randwick when fifth to Quindnunc in the Listed The Nivison (1200m) at Randwick on October 20.
She then improved second-up when a good second to Koonoomoo in the Group 3 Herald Sun Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, a race Smith believes Cabernet should have won, before her success at Sandown.
“When she ran well first-up at Randwick it gave me a good bit of confidence going to Melbourne,” Smith said.
“She probably should have won at Flemington so it was good to see her win the stakes race at Sandown for her owners.”
Like the majority of her Festival Stakes rivals Cabernet is using Saturday’s race as a lead-up to the $175,000 Group 2 Villiers Stakes over the Warwick Farm mile on December 22, a double Smith has been eyeing for quite some time.
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