Former Group 1 performer African Pulse needs to show some form at Moonee Valley this weekend with trainer Michael Moroney confirming D-Day was approaching for the rising six-year-old.
A son of Johannesburg, African Pulse is one of four runners for Moroney in Melbourne on Saturday and runs in the fourth – the $80,000 United Refrigeration Handicap (1000m).
Robbie Laing’s recent Sir John Monash Stakes winner Lord Of The Sky is the odds-on pop to win, the Danerich colt making their four-year-old debut.
They’re looking to improve on their disappointing fourth as the beaten favourite in the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) behind speedy Adelaide filly Thiamandi.
African Pulse is also installed at single figures to win, the gelding struggling to return to form after a number of injuries and setbacks.
They missed four months of racing between March and their first-up run at Caulfield on July 5 during which time they were gelded.
With form tapering off during the autumn, connections opted to say goodbye to their stallion prospect and opt for the operation to try and get them back to their best.
That best however is not what it should be according to Moroney who was somewhat disappointed with their resuming run.
“It was (disappointing) after all of his injuries and operations,” Moroney told RSN’s Racing Ahead.
Like Saturday’s favourite they ran in the Group 3 Sir John Monash Stakes (1100m) but could only manage to finish seven and a half lengths away fifth.
At their peak during 2012 African Pulse was racing competitively in races like the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) and Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) beaten under four lengths in both those classics.
Now however Moroney knows they’re not up to that class opting for the easier option this weekend to try and get them back into the winners’ stall.
“After the major operation he’s struggling to be back to his best but he’s dangerously light in the weights,” he said.
“Decided to avoid the better ones on paper and run in this.”
If the horse fails to come on again then there’s a chance they will retire them.
“He’s just not letting go the way we know he can,” Moroney said.
“If he’s not really quite up to it we’ll make a decision.
“If he can bring his best form to the table he’ll be very hard to beat but his best form now isn’t what it used to be.”
Moroney has a number of other chances on the Moonee Valley race card this weekend including two in the opening event – the $80,000 The Valley Handicap (2040m).
In that he saddles up Flashy Fella and Shenzhou Steeds from barriers five and two respectively.
Race favourite is the Chris Waller-trained Bagman who wasn’t accepted for the $100,000 Listed Winter Challenge (1500m).
Shenzhou Steeds is then the best fancied of Moroney’s duo in the markets, but without rain around then the trainer believes Flashy Fella is the pick.
The Thorn Park gelding turns six on Friday and was close to a win last start on July 13 when second in the Warracknabeal Cup (2000m), Flashy Fella looking ready to peak.
“He was always going to be vulnerable fitness-wise,” Moroney said.
“But I thought he was terrific (last start), aided by a pretty good ride.
“He should be ready to peak now.”
Chris Symons rides Flashy Fella and rates them a good chance if the track remains firm, dead or better, and they can find a nice spot in what should be a tactically run race.
“We’ve drawn five, there’s no pace in it which is not ideal but it should be a real tactical race,” Symons said.
“Hopefully we land in a nice enough spot to be in the firing line.”
If the rain comes then Glen Boss could be aboard the winner riding Ishiguru gelding Shenzhou Steeds coming off back-to-back fourths over 2000m in Melbourne this month.
“He just wants rain badly,” Moroney said.
“If we get a lot of rain he’ll be the one.”
Both horses have the ability to roll forward though and Moroney said “they’ll be putting themselves in it early.”
The pick of the day for Moroney however is Devonshire Duke in the second race – the $40,000 Advanced Mailing Solutions Handicap (1600m).
They’re battling for favouritism in the markets with the John Sadler-trained Digitalism, Keeper five-year-old Devonshire Duke coming off a win over the mile at Morphettville from July 19.
The track that day was a Heavy (8) and so they’re sure to appreciate some rain for Saturday too in a race where they carry the equal 60kg top weight along with three other runners.
“Very good win (last start),” Moroney said.
“A little bit of rain would also help him, he’s best on Slow tracks.
“Getting a little bit older so some soundness issues but he seems to be in his best form.”
Moroney said Devonshire Duke doesn’t need much work between starts so their work has been light, the only real concern for Saturday being their wide barrier 10 draw.
“We’ve gone pretty light with him between runs,” Moroney said.
“We’re happy with him so long as he can get a nice little run from that draw.
“Really good form and looks good.”