Caulfield trainer Mick Price feels the time is right to test his emerging stable star Callanish at the highest level by entering him in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
But Price is not too worried if the undefeated Callanish gets beaten at his first start at Group 1 level on the weekend and is looking further down the track at the Group 1 $1m Darley Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 9 as his main Autumn Carnival target.
“If he doesn’t win it it doesn’t matter, I’m not worried about him getting beaten and keeping his record,” Price said.
Callanish had a solid hit-out today in winning a 1000m trial at Werribee and will be making a tough Group 1 debut when he comes up against glamour three year old All Too Hard, prolific New Zealand Group 1 winner King Mufhasa, Doomben Cup winner Mawingo and Perth Group 1 winner Mr Moet.
“I’m not sure I haven’t been caught a bit short with him,” Price said.
“Another week might have been good, but his trial today will have brought him on and he’ll run in the Orr on Saturday.”
Callanish has only been tested up to 1700m when he won at Caulfield back in September last year and if Price thinks the four year old is not ready for the 2000m of the Australian Cup, he will turn his attention to Sydney and hope to get a run in the Group 1 $2m BMW Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 20.
“I’ve always believed he would be a 2000 metre horse, but if I’m a bit out with his preparation he’s entered for the Doncaster which isn’t a bad alternative,” Price said.
Callanish has won all eight starts to date but really started to attract attention during his last preparation when the Fastnet Rock gelding went from winning a 0-72 three year old handicap over 1200m at Sandown on July 22 to taking out the Listed $150,000 Darley Seymour Cup (1600m) at Seymour on October 21.
The C F Orr Stakes is the first leg of The G1 Championship series for middle distance horses which offers a TAB $1 million bonus for any horse that wins the Orr Stakes, the Group 2 $200,000 Carlton Draught Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 23 and the Group 1 $1m Darley Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 9.
To take out all three Autumn feature races would place the winner in an elite category which includes the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup winning mare Let’s Elope (1992), the mighty Queenslander Vo Rogue (1989) and the legendary Leilani (1975).