Trainer Gary Portelli believes that Rebel Dane is close to peak fitness and is ready to win first-up in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1300m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
Rebel Dane had a breakout campaign during the 2013 Sydney Autumn Carnival, winning the Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes (1200m) and finishing second behind Pierro in the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m), and based on an impressive barrier trial win at Warwick Farm last month has returned this season in good shape.
Portelli told Racing Ahead that he targeted the Show County Quality with Rebel Dane and he has the four-year-old in excellent condition to maintain his undefeated first-up record.
“He trialed really well and he has certainly trained on nicely since then,” Portelli said on RSN.
“We have got him cherry ripe for Saturday and we will get a guide as to where we go based on the result.
“We have targeted this race and we know that he is good first-up
“I knew that he would be favourite and I want the punters to be confident that they are backing a horse that is fit.
“He will probably derive some benefit from it but you will see him pretty close to his top this weekend.”
Rebel Dane will go into Saturday’s race with a substantial weight advantage on the other leading chances after being allocated just 54.5 kilos by the handicapper while Group 1 winning mares Appearance and Norzita will carry 59kg and 57kg respectively.
Portelli believes that, with the weight advantage, Rebel Dane needs to be competitive this weekend if he is going to be any chance to head to Melbourne for the major sprint races during the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival.
“We were a little bit concerned when we first targeted this race because we thought if it wasn’t a strong race we might end up with a bit of weight but there are group 1 winners in it and it worked out well as far as the weights go,” Portelli said.
“It is a good little test for him because he has got to be competitive for us to warrant going for Melbourne and heading for any big races.”
While Portelli plans on bringing the son of California Dane to Melbourne for the spring he has not yet decided what will be the major target for Rebel Dane.
The Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on September 29 is on his agenda but Portelli plans to take it one step at a time after this weekend and doesn’t believe he will give Rebel Dane a lengthy campaign with one eye already on the autumn.
“He is a light framed horse and I just have to take him as I see him,” the Sydney-based trainer said.
“I’m not targeting anything other than this weekend and we will just work it out from there.
“I’m expecting him to improve from last campaign but he is going to be a very strong stallion come the autumn.
“We can have a crack at a couple of big races with him (this spring) and make sure he goes out in good order so he can improve for next year.
“There are plenty of good sprints around Australia and if you can keep a horse like him sound and happy he will race until he is eight years old.”
Portelli is chasing his first Group 1 victory in Australia since he won the Australian Oaks (2400m) with Rena’s Lady in 2007.