James McDonald will be hoping for a quick return...
While the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) is the “sky high” target for Affirmation during the autumn, the gelding will resume at Sandown Racecourse with the Group 3 Manfred Stakes (1400m) on January 26. This means he could have dual autumn carnivals in both Sydney and Melbourne.
The Tony McEvoy-trained gelding won two of his three starts last year but has not been seen on the track in six months.
Affirmation debuted in the Inglis Classic (1200m) at Royal Randwick last January, finishing six lengths behind winner Peggy Jean in fifth place before travelling to Adelaide and Melbourne to win his maiden as well as the Frankston Handicap (1400m), which he won three lengths clear of Club Star.
“He could almost be unbeaten,” McEvoy told TVN.
“Nash Rawiller rode him on debut and said he should have just about won.
“He was very unlucky after being slowly away.
“He is a progressive horse and I still think his coat isn’t quite there yet.
“There is good improvement to come from him, we gave him a soft trial at Hawkesbury and today was much more of a solid test.”
The gelding went out on a barrier trial at Randwick on Thursday morning, finding the line strongly back along the inside rail in a hotly contested heat with Sarajevo.
McEvoy plans to run Affirmation in Melbourne first-up but the gelding could return to Sydney if his form holds up for the 2015 Randwick Guineas via the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on February 21.
The trainer favours the 1400 metre distance of the 2015 Manfred Stakes for Affirmation, who would have to be kept to 1000-1200 metres in Sydney first-up.
“At this stage the plan is to go to Melbourne and run in the Manfred Stakes at Sandown on Australia Day,” McEvoy said.
“I feel he would probably get run off his legs if I kept him in Sydney and ran first-up in a 1000m or 1200m race, I just don’t want to do that to him early in the campaign.
“Going to Sandown on a bigger track over 1300m should be much more to his liking, there is a big straight and it will be a nice starting point for him.
“If his form warrants it, then we could come back to Sydney and run in the Hobartville Stakes and then Randwick Guineas.
“The Guineas is the sky high target, there is a long way before we get there but his preparation will allow it if he proves he is good enough.”
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