Melbourne jockey Ben Melham expects improvement from Malaguerra and can see him winning back to back Group 1 races when he steps out in the $1m Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth on Saturday.
The Peter Gelagotis trained Malaguerra was second up when he won the Group 1 $1m Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 5 and Melham said that he will definitely strip fitter this weekend.
“Malaguerra should be even further improved for the Winterbottom,” Melham told the West Australian.
“He was racing only second-up in the Darley and I felt he’d had enough on the line. He’ll be up against class horses in Perth, but should be hard to beat again.”
Malaguerra is one of twelve final acceptors for the Winterbottom Stakes and is up against a smart field of sprinters including Group 1 winner Terravista and multiple Group 2 winner Takedown as well as some promising local sprinters.
Melham has had a long association with Malaguerra and won six times on the five year old when he was trained by Lee and Anthony Freedman before being transferred to the Gelagotis stable at Moe.
Brisbane jockey Glen Colless rode Malaguerraa to victory for the Freedman Brothers when he won the Group 1 $500,000 BTC Cup (1200m) at Doomben during the Queensland Winter Carnival.
But Melham was back aboard when Malaguerra debuted for the Gelagotis stable with a second to Star Turn in the Group 2 $400,000 Mitsubishi Electric Schillaci Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on October 8.
“I won six races on him before he was transferred this year to Peter Gelagotis’ stable,” Melham said.
“Last month I got back on him, and he ran second in the Schillaci Stakes.”
Melham has a busy few weeks ahead and will head to Perth later in the week after being in Sydney today to ride Rebel Dane in a Rosehill barrier trial wins.
Melhan teamed up with the Gary Portelli trained Rebel Dane to win the Group 1 $1m Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on October 21 and will head to Hong Kong to ride the seven year old in the Group 1 HK$18.5m Longines Hong Kong Sprint 1200m at Sha Tin on December 11.
Malaguerra is currently sharing favouritism for the Winterbottom Stakes with the Joe Pride trained Terravista at $3.50 with Ladbrokes.com.au.
Local sprinter State Solicitor shares the next line of betting at $8 with Sydney Sprinter Takedown just ahead of Rock Magic at $9 and Vega Magic at $10.
Market order for the Winterbottom Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au: $3.50 Malaguerra, Terravista, $8 State Solicitor, Takedown, $9 Rock Magic, $10 Vega Magic, $11 Sheidel, $17 Keen Array, $21 First Among Equals, $41 Battle Hero, $51 Military Reign, $101 Regal Commander.
The barrier draw for the Winterbottom Stakes will be drawn at a private function to be held at the Crown Perth Entertainment Complex today at 4pm.