Trainer David Payne has revealed that the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 1 is the major target for Rock Hero during the 2014 Melbourne Festival Of Racing.
Rock Hero finished his successful spring campaign with an eighth place finish behind Complacent in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) on October 12 and has already been back in work for just over a month.
The three-year-old was given a quiet trial over 1030 metres at Rosehill Gardens this morning, finishing seventh in the trial that also included stablemates Winning Glory, Honorius and Centennial Park, but Payne said that he would step-up the preparation of the Fastnet Rock colt before he returns to racing in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 ahead of the Australian Guineas.
“We have five weeks up our sleeve with him before his first start, so he will have another trial and then head down to Melbourne for the 1400m and then the Group 1 a fortnight later over the mile,” Payne told TVN after the trial.
Rock Hero did the majority of his racing during his 2013 Spring Racing Carnival campaign over a mile or 1550 metres, recording impressive wins in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1550m) at Canterbury and the Listed Dulcify Quality (1600m) at Royal Randwick, but failed to run out the trip strongly in the Spring Champion Stakes over 2000 metres.
Payne believes that Rock Hero has returned for his second racing campaign as a much stronger horse but revealed that he is likely to keep the progeny of Group 1 placegetter Gallant Tess to races over a mile during his autumn campaign.
“He has come back a much stronger horse and a much smarter horse too,” Payne said.
“We forced him a bit last spring because he was still very dumb but he knows a bit more about what racing is about now.
“I don’t think he is a Derby horse, we might nominate for the Rosehill Guineas depending on how he is progressing but I think he might be better at the mile.”
Payne has only previously had one runner in the Australian Guineas, Centennial Park who finished ninth in the 2009 edition of the race, and is chasing his first win in both the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).