This Saturday marks the official start of autumn racing in Melbourne with the first Group One race of the year. Eight Group races in total will run at Caulfield Racecourse, headlined by the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m).
19 top sprint-milers were nominated for the $400,000 race on Monday morning, including recent success Mourinho. The seven-year-old gelding was also nominated for the Group 3 Carlyon Cup (1600m) but trainer Peter Gelagotis made the decision on Tuesday to go for gold in the feature race following a pleasing trial from the gelding with Vlad Duric at Cranbourne.
“He came through that trial beautifully, he wasn’t knocked around, he had his head on his chest the whole way and come through it really nicely,” the trainer told Racing Victoria.
“Vlad told us the horse went really, really well, he was really sharp and really strong on the bridle and he said, ‘have a go, don’t be scared, your horse is well’. That was good enough for us.
“We chanced our arm and we got a great result (in the Australia Stakes) and we’re going to stick our neck out and have a go at the Orr Stakes this Saturday.”
Mourinho enjoyed the best campaign of his career during the spring, placing in both the Group 2 Dato Chan Nam Stakes (1600m) and Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) before winning the Listed Cranbourne Cup (2025m).
The gelding got his first chance at Group One racing in the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on November 1. He ran a very honest race but was run down in the final furlong, finishing five lengths away in seventh place.
Gelagotis decided to think outside the box when resuming Mourinho this season, he was a late entry for the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) on January 24. The gelding had a starting price of $31 at Ladbrokes.com.au considering he’d never run over 1200 metres before and proven so successful over 2000 metres during the spring.
Still the risk paid off and Mourinho won the Australia Stakes after staving off It Is Written in the final moments. His trainer is hopeful he can produce another upset in the 2015 CF Orr Stakes.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how he goes, because we did something left-field the other day and the fresh run is out of him,” Gelagotis said.
“Whether he’s still got that freshness and sharpness second-up over 1400 will be a brand new learning curve for us.
“I’ve tried to keep a lid on him as best I can, but I believe that he will be sharp. It’ll just be nice to see it unfold so we can give ourselves some confidence in what we want to do with him this time around.”
Mourinho will aim to become just the fourth horses since 2003 to complete the Australia Stakes/Orr Stakes double and join the likes of Yell, El Segundo, and Black Caviar.
Betting markets for the CF Orr Stakes will open at Ladbrokes.com.au shortly after the final field is released on Wednesday. Open your betting account now to receive a $250 bonus match on your first bet when you quote code: BETBONUS.