Smart Group 1 performer Rebel Dane kicks off his autumn campaign at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Saturday’s 2016 Australia Stakes and trainer Gary Portelli is hoping he can finally break his maiden status at the track.
Last seen running third only two lengths off star sprinter Chautauqua in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at the Valley back in October, six-year-old Rebel Dane returns to the tight course for a sixth time this weekend.
The six-year-old stallion is yet to win at Moonee Valley but the Manikato was one of two thirds in Group 1 company at the track along with his effort behind Robert Heathcote’s warhorse Buffering in the 2014 Moir Stakes when beaten only a neck in a blanket finish.
All of Rebel Dane’s Moonee Valley runs so far have been in Group 1 company with last year’s Manikato Stakes his third shot at the race after a fifth in 2013 behind Buffering beaten a length and his fourth to Lankan Rupee beaten a mere quarter-length in 2014.
His first-up assignment in the $200,000 Group 2 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m) is shaping up as a top chance for him to break his duck at the track, but Portelli is keeping his confidence in check.
“He’s been up against the best sprinters that we’ve got, so we thought we might get in a bit early this preparation before Chautauqua and Terravista and the likes are wound up,” Portelli told Racing Ahead on RSN.
“We might have found a slightly easier race, it still looks a pretty strong race on the weekend.
“It certainly won’t be the walk in the park you’d hope for, but the Valley is a tricky track and things need to go your way.”
The Australia Stakes nominations are full of depth featuring three other Group 1 winners along with Rebel Dane with the defending champion Mourinho, the Darren Weir-trained Trust In A Gust and 2014 Emirates Stakes champ Hucklebuck.
Rebel Dane’s top-level success was achieved way back in September of 2013 in Caulfield’s Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).
His latest turf triumph meanwhile was in September of last year in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) first-up at Randwick.
To date the horse boasts an imposing first-up record of four wins, a second and a third from seven resuming runs that he’ll be out to add to this Saturday in the Australia Stakes.
Rebel Dane sharpened up for his return with a Randwick trial over 838m at Randwick on January 12 where he ran third with Brenton Avdulla, who retains the ride on Saturday and throughout the galloper’s autumn preparation, in the saddle.
He is on way to bigger and better things this Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival including the Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes – Futurity Stakes double over 1400m at Caulfield next month.
Portelli believes the 1400m is now Rebel Dane’s pet distance despite the middle distance star not having won over those metres since his Sir Rupert success.
“We haven’t tried him at 1400m for a while because his throat was a problem, and he wasn’t finishing his races off strong enough to go to 1400m before,” he said.
“Now we’ve got him as good as we can get him, and I think his two best runs were at 1400m when he got beaten half-a-head by Pierro and he won his Group 1 at Caulfield.
“It probably is his best distance, and we’re looking forward to getting him through this first-up.”
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