Rebel Dane will make his long-awaited return to racing in the 2014 T.J. Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday and trainer Gary Portelli believes that he could not have the talented sprinter any fitter.
Rebel Dane has not been seen at the races since he finished seventh behind Buffering in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 9 last year and Portelli has prepared the California Dane entire specifically for a first-up tilt at the $2.5 million T.J. Smith Stakes.
The four-year-old finished second in a barrier trial over 900 metres at Rosehill Gardens on March 31 and was given a testing gallop at Warwick Farm this morning and Portelli told Sky Racing HQ this morning that his star galloper was primed for his tilt at the Group 1 event on Saturday.
“He had a good searching gallop this morning,” Portelli said.
“Basically the whole preparation has gone to plan and every step that we have built him up through he has come through nicely.
“Today was where we needn’t a good gallop and we had in the back of our mind that it is going to be a soft track this weekend and you can’t have anything up your sleeve.
“In such a good race with such high prizemoney you have to have him spot-on and that is where we are at.
“He worked brilliantly again this morning and Bossy said that he felt enormous on the soft ground.
“We just have to hope that we are up to the task now.
“I don’t think that we could get him any fitter without racing now.
“The way he recovered from his gallop this morning showed us that he is ready.”
The 2014 T.J. Smith Stakes field and barrier draw was released just after midday and the Group 1 event will feature a capacity field of 18 runners for the first time in history.
Portelli said that the field is one of the strongest he has ever seen assembled for a sprinting event, labeling Lankan Rupee and Buffering as the main threats to Rebel Dane, and believes the only thing that could make it the field tougher would be the inclusion of retired equine superstar Black Caviar.
“It is a very good race and it is probably the best sprint field I’ve seen put together for a long time,” Portelli said.
“It is just lucky that there is no Black Caviar I suppose, but in saying that it is collectively the best field and obviously if she was in we would all be running for second.”
Portelli is chasing his first win in the T.J. Smith Stakes after previously missing the placings with Ateates (ninth in 2002 and fourth in 2001) and Knickerbocker Kid (tenth in 2001).