Steve Englebrecht’s smart Snitzel gelding Malavio runs at Rosehill Gardens this Saturday defending their title in the 2013 Festival Stakes.
The now five-year-old rounded out a decent spring prep last season backing up from a game Hawkesbury Gold Cup fourth over the mile to take out the $100,000 Listed Festival Stakes (1500m).
Last year they beat Monton by a half length with Peter Snowden’s talented Galah in third before being sent out for a spell that would span eight and a half months.
They resumed in August this year and have won one of their six new season starts when narrowly holding off Bello to take out the Group 3 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick in September.
Malavio was also tested at elite level this Sydney Spring Racing Carnival when fifth, beaten under a length by the Chris Waller-trained Boban, in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) in early October.
Their latest effort was a close fourth behind Ninth Legion in an open handicap over 1350m at Rosehill when carrying a hefty 58kg, the riding services of Lester Grace allowing them a three kilo claim on their original 61kg allocation.
Now they run at the track again this Saturday looking to go back-to-back in the Festival Stakes.
After the Festival Stakes Englebrecht is hoping fate will be kinder to his horse this prep and allow them a shot at the $175,000 Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on December 14.
Malavio’s hopes of a Villiers Stakes run last summer sunk after the horse injured their leg, leading to their lengthy spell.
While they look back on track now their Sydney-based trainer is always wary of reinjuring the leg of such a big galloper.
“He is such a big horse we have to keep a close eye on him,” Englebrecht told AAP.
“He hits the ground hard. He’s 580 kilos when he’s rock, hard fit.
“And when we weighed him the other day he was 580 kilos.”
Malavio will be ridden by Peter Robl for a track gallop today, the jockey likely to stay on for the Festival Stakes for their first official ride on the reigning champ.
“He (Malavio) seems to have come through his last race in excellent condition but I just want Peter to ride him work and give his opinion,” Englebrecht said.
Other possible Festival Stakes runners this year include the Chris Waller-trained quartet of multiple stakes winner She’s Clean, Pivotal mare Pipette, 2012 Randwick Guineas runner-up Said Com and last start Hawkesbury winner Tromso.
Englebrecht’s sole hope meanwhile will be Malavio after he opted for a 1500m benchmark race over the Festival Stakes for their half-sister She’s A Girl who comes off a win at the same track and distance from November 16.
“We will give her a break after Saturday and get her ready for the autumn,” he said.
“There are a lot of nice options for her with the way the carnival has been shaped and I think she is up to the better races.”
The Festival Stakes 2013 final field is due out on Wednesday and will be published right here at Races.com.au along with the two other black type race fields at the meeting.
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