Trainer Anthony Cummings believes that Fontelina is in excellent shape heading into the 2014 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Fontelina has not been seen at the races since he finished an impressive fourth in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 9, but Cummings told Sky Racing HQ this morning that the Testa Rossa gelding has progressed strongly since returning from a stint in the spelling paddock and performed well during a trackwork gallop at Sandown yesterday.
“We are very happy,” Cummings said.
“He had a nice gallop, he runs time with little effort, and that was the case once again yesterday.
“He is in a very good spot and had his toughest gallop about ten days ago and that really tightened him up.
“Since that we have just kept him well and kept him about the same weight.
“He goes into the race in very good shape.”
Jockey Brad Rawiller has been booked to ride Fontelina for the first time in a race and, like Cummings, was happy with the way that the five-year-old worked at Sandown yesterday morning.
Fontelina has produced some of his best form down the famous Flemington straight, including back-to-back wins in the Group 2 Yellowglen Stakes (1200m) on Victoria Derby Day, and Rawiller believes that gives the tough gelding an edge in the Group 1 event.
“Horses that have run well down the straight always do and that is certainly a real big tick for him,” Cummings said.
“I galloped him at Sandown yesterday morning and I couldn’t have been happy with his work; we only did what we needed to do to clean up the fitness.”
Fontelina will jump from barrier one in the Newmarket Handicap and Rawiller admits that drawing on the inside of the field is never ideal in straight races at Flemington, but remains confident that the Group 1 placegetter has the class to be a factor in the finish on Saturday.
“We have drawn barrier one and I love drawing barrier one any track, anywhere, but probably down the straight is the one place that it can work against you,” Rawiller said.
“We will be going in there knowing that we love the straight and have a bit of a class factor, so we are definitely in the mix.”
Rawiller is chasing his second win in the Newmarket Handicap following his victory on Weekend Hussler in the 2008 edition of the race.