Two times Group 1 winner Malaguerra can break a two year winning drought if he can win his second Group 2 $200,000 Australia Stakes (1200m) at The Valley tonight.
Malaguerra is the winner of twelve of his thirty-one starts but hasn’t greeted the judge first since winning the 2017 Australia Stakes.
The Peter Gelagotis trained seven year old was away from the race track for almost twelve months due to injury before running twelfth in the Group 1 $1m Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes (1200m) at The Valley during the 2018 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Gelagotis then sent Malaguerra to Perth where he finished third to Voodoo Lad in the Group 1 $1m Crown Perth Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth on December 1.
Malaguerra has pleased Gelagotis with his Australia Stakes preparation and the Moe trainer is giving him a great chance to find the winner’s stall again.
“He had 12 months out and was on rusty wheels but now he’s back on top of his game.” Gelagotis told the Herald Sun.
“His trial and his in-house jump outs suggest that’s the case — he’s really flying and I think he gets his chance.”
Gelagotis is toying with the idea of stretching Malaguerra out to 1600m during this Autumn campaign and has nominated him for the $5m All-Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington on March 16.
“He’s a good sprinter when kept fresh, but to me he’s a 1400m to 1600m horse and that’s what we’re going to do,” Gelagotis said.
“I’ve told the owner we’re going to stretch him out in distance, so it’s worth throwing a nomination in for it.”
“We’ll see how he goes over 1400m and then we’ll know whether he’s up for a race over a mile.”
Following the Australia Stakes, Gelagotis will step Malaguerra back up to Group 1 company and run him in the $500,000 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) on February 9 and then two weeks later in the 1 $500,000 Futurity Stakes (1400m), both at Caulfield.
Malaguerra has drawn barrier seven in the ten horse Australia Stakes field and will be ridden by regular partner Ben Melham.
Betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the Australia Stakes has Malaguerra marked at $7.50 behind the Darren Weir trained trio of Whispering Brook at $3.70, Land Of Plenty at $4.80 and Brave Smash at $6.
Today’S Mornington race meeting has been abandoned because of the extreme heat with Melbourne forecast to hit 44 degrees Celsius but with a cool change tipped to arrive during the afternoon, tonight’s Moonee Valley meeting is safe with the first race not scheduled to run until 6.30pm while the Australia Stakes, race 7, is set down to run at 9.30pm Melbourne time.