Tonight under the lights at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley Racecourse the Adelaide Cup 2015 bid of the Richard Laming-trained import Refectory begins in earnest.
The five-year-old Danehill Dancer gelding is one of 10 hopefuls lining up in the last at the twilight meeting, the $35,000 Strathmore Flowers Handicap (2500m) jumping as Race 8 at 10:15pm (AEDT) at the Valley.
He was also accepted for the first at Morphettville on Saturday but has seen officially been scratched from the $40,000 William Hill Handicap (2600m) where Dean Yendall was on standby for the ride.
Drawn in barrier five with Ben Melham to ride, he is rated a $7 chance in the Ladbrokes.com.au markets for Moonee Valley tonight that are led by the in-form Darren Weir-trained Zabeel gelding Zanteco ($2.70) shooting for his third win on the trot but his first at the course.
Refectory, originally prepared by Andrew Balding in the UK, meanwhile shoots for his first win since a Class 3 set weights success over 2140m at Doomben back in June last year during the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
He has had three runs this summer, the most recent of which saw him finish third behind Gilago in a Benchmark 70 over 2200m at Ballarat on January 28.
Tonight he’s stretched out over 2500m for the first time, but he does have winning form up to 2400m when an ultra-impressive nine length winner over the mile and a half at Haydock park in Britain in September of 2013.
He’s also had just the one run at Moonee Valley when two back on January 3 he ran fifth, beaten under two lengths, to Beliveau in a Benchmark 78 over 2040m.
“He ran super first up over a mile and his race at the Valley was also good,” Laming told Racing Victoria on Thursday.
“The way he was ridden in his last start just didn’t suit him at all and that’s why we got the result we did.
“He’s a horse that needs to get out at the 700-800 metre mark and build up momentum and get going. He’s not a sit and sprint horse, and that’s how he was ridden last start. He just can’t be ridden like that.”
Laming has an ambitious autumn on the cards for the progressive galloper, naming the $400,000 Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) up over the two miles at Morphettville Racecourse on March 9 as the big goal.
“He’ll go well tomorrow night (Friday night) and I’m confident he’ll be in the first four,” Laming said.
“The aim then is to race him again in a fortnight, most likely in Adelaide at this stage, before we look at the Cup.
“He has to perform in his next two runs for us to go there, but I think he’s a horse that will definitely appreciate racing at two miles.
“He’s a genuine staying contender and once he gets to the 3000 metre plus mark, he’ll come into his own. He’s a natural stayer.
“Once you get over 3000 metres, it weasels a lot of horses out, but he’s a genuine two mile horse and it won’t be an issue for him.”
While his Australian form hasn’t been super exciting yet, his Cranbourne-based trainer believes he has a feature race win in him.
Laming, who took over training of Refectory early last year, is yet to step the horse up to black type level but plans to do so this season leading into the Adelaide Cup in South Australia.
He purchased the horse along with fellow UK galloper Glacial Age two years ago, swayed by the strong form of those imports down under in the staying features of the major carnivals.
“For me it was a no brainer, European imports are winning everything,” Laming said.
“The way they are bred over there combined with the way we train them here makes for great stayers.
“Once they acclimatise, they really hit their straps.
“They have great lung capacity and good miles in their legs, and the way we train them in Australia gives them the sprint.”
Laming said that acclimatisation was just really starting to happen for Refectory now who is still learning a lot each start, especially since being gelded at the start of year.
“We left him as a colt for his first five runs and he went ok,” he said.
“Without getting carried away, since he’s been a gelding he’s been a different horse.
“He’s still immature, has a lot to learn and is a big baby. But he continues to improve and I’m impressed with what he’s shown us so far.”
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