Trainer Gerald Ryan has revealed that he could not be happier with the condition of veteran stayer Ironstein ahead of the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap (2400m) at Royal Randwick this afternoon.
Ironstein has not been victorious since his win in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) during the 2011 Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington but has performed well this campaign.
The Zabeel gelding started his preparation slowly, finishing ninth in the Listed Winter Challenge (1500m) and 12th in the St Johns Park Bowling Club Handicap (1800m), but returned to his best form with a narrow second place finish behind Less Is More in the Listed Premier’s Cup (1800m) before battling home well to finish fifth in the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick a fortnight ago.
Ironstein is having his second career start in the Metropolitan Handicap, after finishing fourth behind The Verminator in the 2011 edition of the race, and Ryan believes the gusty gelding is ready to run a big race in his return to Group 1 level.
“He seems to go really well at this time of year and I couldn’t be happier with him,” Ryan told AAP.
“He is terrific in himself, his coat’s good and he’s been racing really well.”
Ironstein has narrowly missed out on earning a start in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) in both 2011 and 2012 but Ryan is hopeful that this could finally be the year in which the eight-year-old gets a crack at ‘the race that stops a nation’.
“If he can win the Metropolitan he will go to the Caulfield Cup or the Geelong Cup and try to get into the Melbourne Cup,” Ryan said.
“I’ve never had a Melbourne Cup runner and I’d like to.”
If the veteran of 54 starts misses out on a run in the Melbourne Cup again, Ryan said that the John Singleton-owned galloper will contest the Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the third time in his career.
Ironstein has produced two of the best performances of his career in the Group 3 event; defeating a strong field, including Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer, in the 2011 edition of the race before finishing second behind Puissance De Lune last year.