Cranbourne’s Nikki Burke is confident she’s got her Group 1 performing sprinter Unpretentious in career best condition ahead of a first-up rematch with the hugely talented Lankan Rupee in Saturday’s McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Stratum gelding Unpretentious, whose career has been hampered by injury setbacks aplenty, first encountered Mick Price’s superstar when ninth behind Lankan Rupee in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on March 8.
Unpretentious had a wide barrier (13 of 14) that day and while he battled on late was never going to catch those that got away from him early.
Lankan Rupee now boasts three Group 1 trophies and resumes in Saturday’s $200,000 Group 2 Mitty’s McEwen Stakes (1000m) ahead of the spring majors.
While he is the horse to beat, Burke couldn’t be happier with her runner Unpretentious who is also first-up here.
“The horse is great,” she told Racing Victoria.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had him as good or as sound as he is at the moment.”
The six-year-old went on from the Newmarket in March to finish an extremely close third when under a quarter length away third to Spirit Of Boom in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) having just run out of puff in the final stages.
He then travelled to Adelaide but failed to let down on a Slow (7) at Morphettville in May when a disappointing seventh to upset 40-1 winner Smokin’ Joey in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m).
Burke is confident he can come back in better form than that however having impressed well ahead of his first-up run.
A winner of three of his five first-up runs to date, Unpretentious was originally earmarked for a first-up run in Listed company in Saturday’s Drummoned Golf Stakes over 1200m but instead gets a chance at some better Group prize money on the weekend.
“The plan all along was to run him in the 1200m Listed race first up but we’ve just had to re-tweak things a little bit,” Burke said.
“Going into his first up run without a trial he’s better suited over 1000 even though it is against Lankan Rupee, it’s just a better race for his preparation.”
Long term Burke is looking at a possible trip west to Perth for a shot at the $750,000 Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on November 22.
“He can tell us where we go, we’ll just see how he performs on Saturday, there’s plenty of options for him over the spring,” she said.
“I want to avoid running him at Flemington. The way they race down the straight now, they sit up for three furlongs (600m) and he’s always giving them five lengths and he just can’t run the sectionals needed to beat them.
“If he comes up really well there’s plenty of options for him at Moonee Valley and then he can have a little freshen between there and Perth and miss Flemington.”
That rules out a Melbourne Cup Carnival run in early November’s $1 million Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) won last year by Buffering on way to his Winterbottom Stakes victory.
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