This summer the Gary Portelli-trained Straturbo will seek another Magic Millions Sprint win on the Gold Coast and come into the January classic via the same path he did to win 12 months ago.
The now six-year-old son of Stratum won the Magic Millions Sprint (1100m), now worth $1 million in prize money, in Queensland this summer gone by a quarter length over Happy Galaxy and is on track to defend his title in the restricted clash on January 9.
He hasn’t won a race since but showed good form first-up at Moonee Valley on November 28 when beaten only a length to cross fourth behind Grane over 1000m.
Last year Portelli gave Straturbo two runs before his Magic Millions Race Day ambush kicking things off in the same 1000m sprint he ran fourth in this year.
The horse was runner-up at Moonee Valley last November before a mid-field finish when seventh next time out at Flemington, crossing three lengths off Play Master in December.
This weekend Straturbo runs in the same $80,000 Benchmark 90 Handicap (1000m) at Flemington on way to his Magic Millions Sprint title defence.
The race attracted 21 nominations led by the horse that won at the track in the race Straturbo resumed in, the Robbie Griffiths-trained Grane allocated the 61.5kg top weight.
Portelli’s galloper is allocated 58kg, a kilo more than he carried to seventh last year, as he prepares to take on a tough field in the MM Sprint.
“I’m not sure it will be as easy a task this year,” Portelli told AAP.
“We’ve just got to present him in good order and hope for the best.”
Instructions on Saturday to Straturbo’s hoop Damien Oliver, who retains the mount second-up, will be to ride him more conservatively than last year.
“We’ll see where we draw,” Portelli said.
“Craig Williams (who rode him last year) said he was looking for a turn after racing in daylight all the way and didn’t quite know what was going on.
“We’ll hopefully ride him quieter, expose him late and let him finish off like he did at the Valley last time.”
Other Magic Millions Sprint hopefuls this summer include Tried And Tired last seen running third to Wild Rain on December 5 in the Listed Doveton Stakes (1000m) at Sandown Hillside and the Gerald Ryan-trained colt King’s Troop who hasn’t run since a second to Japonisme in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m) back in mid-August.
Straturbo, who galloped well at Warwick Farm on Saturday, is booked for a float trip back home from Victoria post-Saturday’s race to gear-up for the Queensland assignment next month.
“We always take our horses home,” Portelli said.
“A lot of trainers who move their horses interstate find they do better if you get them home quickly into their home environment.”
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