Melbourne Cup winning horseman Darren Weir could chase his first Epsom Handicap win in 2016 with reports from his foreman Jarrod McLean the boss is keen to target the classic with last start Makybe Diva Stakes winner Palentino.
Four-year-old Teofilo stallion is prepared at Weir’s Wangoom base with McLean in charge of the Warrnambool team.
This week Palentino has been working at the beach after securing his second elite level success at Flemington Racecourse in last Saturday’s Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
In his third run in this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the consistent miler scored the upset over stablemate and hot favourite Black Heart Bart to take out the weight-for-age feature by a length.
The result saw him turn the tables on former Perth-trained hero Black Heart Bart who beat the fifth-placed Palentino home by nearly five lengths the start before in Caulfield’s Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).
The Makybe Diva Stakes success was Palentino’s first turf triumph since saluting at the same track / distance narrowly over VRC Derby champion Tarzino in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) back on March 5.
All 10 of his career starts to date have been in Victoria, but a trip north to target the $1 million Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) on Saturday October 1 could be on the cards according to McLean.
“We have heard quite a few things since he won the Makybe Diva on Saturday but my last conversation with Weiry was he was pretty keen to go to the Epsom,” McLean told Racing Victoria.
“There is also the Toorak, and then hopefully get the passport ready and head to Royal Ascot [in England] next year.
“There is a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then but at this stage I’ve been told to have him prepped and ready to go for the Epsom at the end of this month.”
Weir has never had a runner in an Epsom Handicap field and in the past 30 years no Epsom winner has come off a final lead-up in the Makybe Diva Stakes, giving Palentino plenty of history to overcome.
The other option should he stay on in Melbourne is a week after the Epsom, with the $500,000 Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) running on October 8 as part of the Caulfield Guineas Day action.
Weir’s record in the Toorak Handicap results far surpasses his inexperience in the Epsom.
From four runners he has enjoyed two wins and a third, his Toorak Handicap winners saluting back-to-back over the past two years with Trust In A Gust (2014) and Lucky Hussler (2015).
Both came off runs in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m), run this season at Caulfield Racecourse on September 24, which has produced the past four Toorak Handicap winners.
Palentino is scheduled for a Friday morning gallop on the hill track at Ballarat alongside his Melbourne Cup winning stablemate Prince Of Penzance and a host of other Weir-trained runners: Black Heart Bart, Voodoo Lad, Howard Be Thy Name, Stratum Star, Mahuta and Rageese.
2016 Epsom Handicap nominations close at 11:00am (AEST) on Monday, September 19.
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