Affirmation has only had three race starts, but trainer Tony McEvoy believes that the gelding may be good enough to contest the 2015 Royal Randwick Guineas during his autumn campaign.
Affirmation made his racing debut with a fifth place finish behind Peggy Jean in the Inglis Classic at Royal Randwick on January 18 last year before he stamped himself as a horse to follow with strong wins in the Don’t Drive Handicap (1100m) at Morphettville on July 5 and The Grand Hotel Frankston Handicap (1400m) at Caulfield on July 26 before he was sent back to the spelling paddock.
The Not A Single Doubt gelding was given a very quiet barrier trial at Hawkesbury on December 22, but received a much stiffer test in a barrier trial at Royal Randwick yesterday morning and finished second behind Sarajevo in a trial that also included Pornichet, Hawkspur and Hampton Court.
McEvoy believes that Affirmation still has plenty of improvement in front of him and said that he is more than happy to give the three-year-old an opportunity at the highest level of racing during his autumn campaign.
The in-form trainer told TVN that Affirmation will make his debut at Group level in the Group 3 Manfred Stakes (1200m) at Sandown on February 7 before potentially returning to Sydney for the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on February 21 ahead of the Group 1 Royal Randwick Guineas (1600m) on March 7.
“At this stage the plan is to go to Melbourne and run in the Manfred Stakes at Sandown on Australia Day,” McEvoy said.
“I feel he would probably get run off his legs if I kept him in Sydney and ran first-up in a 1000m or 1200m race and I just don’t want to do that to him early in the campaign.
“Going to Sandown on a bigger track over 1300m should be much more to his liking, there is a big straight and it will be a nice starting point for him.
“If his form warrants it, then we could come back to Sydney and run in the Hobartville Stakes and then Randwick Guineas.
“The Guineas is the sky high target and there is a long way before we get there but his preparation will allow it if he proves he is good enough.”
McEvoy has not had a runner in the Randwick Guineas since Keep The Faith finished fourth behind Niello in the 2004 edition of the race, while he is chasing his first Group 1 win since Barely A Moment took out the 2004 VRC Sires Produce Stakes.