Darren Weir’s Australian Guineas hopefuls Mahuta and Palentino will gallop together at Ballarat on Tuesday morning in preparation for their clash in the $750,000 Group 1 over 1600m for the three year old at Flemington on Saturday.
The in-form Mahuta and the out of luck Palentino will have a searching gallop to prime them for the weekend and at this stage Weir is finding it hard to split the colts.
“They’re both big strong bulls who need a good gallop,’’ Weir told the Herald Sun.
“I don’t know which is the best of them to be honest, so long as one of them is on the day.
“But it will be interesting to see how they go working together in their final gallop.’’
Mahuta is the winner of his last six starts and was a raging hot favourite to win the Group 2 $200,000 Ladbrokes Caulfield Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield last Saturday, but Weir scratched the Flying Spur colt after connections said they would rather wait and run in the Australian Guineas this week.
“I thought he’d be a better chance (in the Autumn Classic) but the owners wanted to run him in the Guineas which is fair enough,” Weir told racing.com.
“The Guineas is obviously a stronger race, I wanted to run him this week and then go to the (Alister Clark) at Moonee Valley.
“The horse is going really well though and should run a good race next week.”
Mahuta scored the first of his six wins in a 1450m Kyneton Maiden on October 8 last year and worked his way up through the classes with wins in Group 3 $200,000 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) at Flemington and in the Group 2 $250,000 Sandown Guineas (1600m) at Sandown during the Spring Carnival.
The Flying Spur colt then resumed from a short break to lead all of the way to win the $2m Magic Millions 3yo Guineas (1400m) at the Gold Coast on January 9 and then went on to keep his winning run going with a nose win over Sailing By in the Group 2 $200,000 Hyland Race Colours Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield o n February 13.
Palentino is going into the Australian Guineas on a slightly lighter preparation and after finishing a first up seventh in the Group 3 $150,000 Manfred Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on February 6 was denied a win in the Group 3 $150,000 C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington a fortnight later when he was relegated to second following a protest decision that went against him.
Palentino was first across the line in the in the C S Hayes Stakes, beating Tivaci by a head, but jockey Craig Williams on Tivaci was quick to fire in an objection for interference he suffered at the 900m resulting from Palentino shifting out.
Stewards agreed with Williams that the ground lost by Tivaci in the scrimmage was more than the winning margin and reversed the placings, promoting the Mike Moroney trained colt to the winner’s stall with Palentino and his connections having to be content with the runner’s up cheque.
Weir is hoping to have three runners in the Australian Guineas with the former Western Australian trained filly Perfect Reflection also being aimed at the race.
Palentino is the highest rated of the three Weir Australian Guineas hopefuls on the second line of betting at $5 with Ladbrokes.com.au, just ahead of Mahuta at $7 while Perfect Reflection is marked as a $9 chance.
Kiwi colt Xtravagant is the ruling favourite at $3.80 and will head to Melbourne on the back of an eight lengths victory in the Group 1 NZ$218,000 NRM Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa in New Zealand on February 13.
Early market order for the Australian Guineas at Ladbrokes.com.au: $3.80 Xtravagant, $5 Palentino, $7 Mahuta, Tarzino, $9 Perfect Refection, $10 Tivaci, $13 Risque, Tulsa, $17 Jameka, River Wild, $21 Lizard Island, Sailing By, Vanbrugh.