Artlee will return to the races in the 2015 Luskin Star Stakes at Scone on Saturday and trainer Todd Willan is hopeful that the talented gelding can record his third straight victory in the Listed event.
Artlee romped home to record a dominant five lengths victory in the Country Championships Wild Card (1280m) at Muswellbrook on March 29 and he proved that performance was no fluke when he beat the likes of Tarangower and Voodoo Lad in the Country Championship Final at Royal Randwick on the opening day of The Championships.
The Excellent Art gelding was given a couple of quite weeks after his Country Championship Final, but Willan told Sky Racing HQ that the four-year-old is ready for the Luskin Star Stakes after he galloped alongside Big Money and recorded a dominant jump out victory at Muswellbrook last week.
“He had a short break and this race presented itself,” Willan said.
“The only other race we had in mind was the Glasshouse at the Sunshine Coast this weekend, but Scone is right at our back door and we opted to go there.
“He has been really well, if anything he might have just had too much of a break.
“He had a really good exhibition gallop with Big Money and I was really happy with that, but I would have liked him to go a bit harder, so he had a jump out on Friday and he cleared out in that pretty well.
“It is all systems go.
“He didn’t beat an exceptional field, but he was running away from them by about 15 lengths and to do that with any sort of horse over 700 metres, you have a pretty smart one.”
Artlee will be dropping back to 1300 metres for the Luskin Star Stakes after he won the Country Championship Final over 1400 metres, but Willan does not believe the step-back in trip will be an issue for the gelding.
The Country Championship winner took out a race over the same trip and distance as the Luskin Star Stakes and Willan is confident that 1300 is the best trip for Artlee at this stage of his racing career.
“He has run over that distance at that track and I really think that 1300 is his pet distance,” Willan said.
“He will probably get out to a mile next prep, but while he is so big and raw 1300 is his genuine best distance.
“He has such a sensational turn-of-foot and he can be tardy out of the gates and if you just sit on him he will cart you into the race himself.
“They will definitely know that he is there.”
The Luskin Star Stakes field will be released tomorrow and could include the likes of Tales Of Grimm, Hidden Warrior, Haussman, Fine Bubbles, Mighty Lucky, Bouzy Rouge, Skip Town and Oxford Poet.