Moe horseman Peter Gelagotis could save Group 1 winner Mourinho for the CF Orr Stakes next month if the veteran draws poorly for his Australia Stakes 2016 title defence this weekend.
Twelve months ago the Oratorio gelding scored the upset as a $41 roughie at Moonee Valley narrowly holding off It Is Written (2nd) and Dissident (3rd) to win the $200,000 Group 2 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m).
He is nominated for the weight-for-age sprint again on Saturday, but Wednesday’s Australia Stakes barrier draw will determine whether or not Gelagotis runs the now eight-year-old in the race first-up.
During the spring the galloper won the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield at $21 before his 12th behind super mare Winx after being caught up throughout in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) on October 24 at Moonee Valley.
He got the job done in last January’s Australia Stakes from a nice barrier four of eight draw with Vald Duric in the saddle, and Gelagotis is hoping for a similarly favourable gate this weekend as Mourinho looks to become the first dual winner since Black Caviar (2010 and 2012).
“It’s a lot different race to last year. I’m very mindful that he needs to draw an inside alley and needs to have everything go his way to win over (1200m),” Gelagotis told Racing Ahead on RSN.
“If we don’t draw well, well then we have got to reassess and then we’ll keep him ticking over and produce him fresh in the (CF) Orr.
“We’ve got options and we’ve got good options. There’s no pressure at this end and hopefully things pan out all right for us and if they don’t, we can make decisions accordingly.”
The opening top-level race of the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival the $500,000 Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) runs at Caulfield Racecourse on February 13.
Gelagotis had Mourinho in work a week earlier than last year and was confident the horse was ready to fire should he get the draw and the run.
“He’s trucking along nicely,” he said.
“I’ve had an extra week up my sleeve. He had an extra week in the paddock and he’s come back a week earlier.
“He’s not showing any signs of any wear and tear or any aging or anything like that. We’re fortunate that we have an environment where we can get our horses in the paddock for the afternoon. He’s still got plenty to give.”
Duric retains the ride on Mourinho if he runs in the Australia Stakes.
Dissident won the CF Orr Stakes last year for Peter Moody on the back of his third to Mourinho in the Australia Stakes.
Also nominated for the Australia Stakes on Saturday is last year’s runner-up It Is Written, the Robbie Griffiths-trained seven-year-old boasting a top Moonee Valley track record of seven wins and six minor placings from 22 starts.
Stay tuned for the official 2016 Australia Stakes field and barriers out shortly.
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