Blue Diamond Stakes favourite Fontiton pleased trainer Robert Smerdon in her lead up gallop for her return to racing in the Group 3 $150,000 Sportingbet Blue Diamond Preview (F) (1000m) at Sandown on Monday.
Fontiton heads the twenty-two nominations for the Blue Diamond Preview for the two year old fillies and with stablemate Shamal Wind were the first horses to test out the newly laid surface on the Caulfield course proper on Tuesday morning.
The renovations for the new racing surface were commenced the day after the running of the 2014 Group 1 $3m Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18 and will be ready to reopen for the running of the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) on February 14.
“They took up the old track, nine years since it was relayed, put down the pre-grown turf. It’s had a really good introduction, it’s been raining on and off all through that time so it has settled in really well,” Smerdon told Racing HQ.
“It was an outstanding surface and Fontiton and her galloping companion Shamal Wind were the first two horses. Six horses used it this morning and there will be a dozen go around next week then trials the week after. A fantastic surface to be able to have a hit out on.”
Even though Smerdon was more than happy with the gallop, he is expecting Fontiton to take improvement from her first up run on Monday as she works towards peak fitness for the Group 1 $1m Sportingbet Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on February 28.
“They galloped good. We were happy with the work of both horses and with the benefit of that I am still think that Fontiton has still got good improvement to come but we are comfortable to be in that position going into a first up run at the start of her preparation,” Smerdon said.
“Probably at the end of it Shamal Wind was a bit stronger fitness wise towards the end of it. He goes to a 1000m Listed race next Monday coming off a short break after the Spring.”
Fontiton was installed the favourite for the Blue Diamond Stakes following her impressive all the way six lengths win in the $250,000 Inglis Banner (1000m) at Moonee Valley on October 25 last year and is currently marked at $4.60.
Smerdon immediately sent the Turffontein filly straight to the spelling paddock with the Blue Diamond Stakes in mind as well as the Group 1 $3.5m Tooheys New Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on March 21.
“The day at Moonee Valley she was able to control the race. It was for Inglis graduates so it was a restricted race in that sense,” Smerdon said.
“She did win by a margin, she did run good time and the feeling we had was that she was fairly talented but they gotta come back and they gotta progress into the Autumn and take on greater depth of opposition so you are always nervous about that.
“Always anxious about any horse coming into racing “
“We are mindful of the fact that she has potential but she has to step up and do it.”