Co-trainer Stephen Autridge is confident the 2016 Australian Guineas favourite Xtravagant is “right on his game” ahead of the Kiwi galloper’s trip down under for the Flemington Group 1 this Saturday.
The Pentire colt travels across the Tasman on Wednesday to take his spot in the $750,000 Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) field on the weekend in Melbourne, Xtravagant debuting in Australia.
A winner of five of his eight career starts at home to date, the gun three-year-old is already a dual Group 1 champion with success in last year’s NZ 2000 Guineas and the NRM Sprint last time out in mid-February.
That form plus a strong final gallop at Matamata on Tuesday morning have him well fancied at the Australian bookies to add an Aussie Group 1 to his record.
His last piece of work ahead of the Australian Guineas saw Xtravagant run over the course proper with Matt Cameron in the saddle for the 1200m hit-out on a rain-affected track.
Despite the slow conditions, Xtravagant completed the run in a smart 1:19.2 including a final 600m sectional in 38.20 seconds.
“We’re as happy as we’ve ever been with him, he’s right on his game,” Autridge, who trains in partnership with Jamie Richards, told The Informant.
“With the rain we’ve had the ground wasn’t ideal for him, but Matt said he was alright held together like that.
“Everything’s in place at this end, so all we want now is a trouble-free trip across to Melbourne to set him up for the weekend.”
In the latest all-in Australian Guineas odds Xtravagant pays $3.80 for the win through Ladbrokes.com.au ahead of the Darren Weir-trained duo of Palentino ($5) and in-form flyer Mahuta ($7).
Teofilo colt Palentino lost the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) on protest last start on February 20 at Flemington, but gets another chance against the awarded winner Tivaci who also backs up in Saturday’s mile clash.
Mahuta meanwhile is looking down the barrel of seven consecutive wins, his latest a narrow effort over Sailing By in the Group 2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield three weeks ago.
Melbourne Cup winning trainer Weir is also likely to saddle-up Perfect Reflection ($9) who is the best fancied filly to beat home the boys.
The former Perth-trained daughter of More Than Ready has won five of her six starts to date including the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) on a Heavy (8) Ascot track last December.
Her only loss was in her interstate debut at Flemington on February 20 when a close third beaten under a length to Don’t Doubt Mamma in the Group 3 The Vanity (1400m).
The last two Australian Guineas winning fillies were Shamrocker (2011) and Mosheen (2012) who both came off runs in The Vanity finishing fourth and second in their respective years.
The other most notable filly in the mix this Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival is Kiwi expat Risque ($13) now prepared by David Hayes & Tom Dabernig.
Also nominated for Sydney’s Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) this weekend, Risque is most likely to run in the Melbourne three-years-old feature.
Winner of the Group 1 NZ Thousand Guineas (1600m) last November, she ran in Australia first-up fin the Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes (1200m) winning by nearly a half-length at Caulfield.
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