Trainer Gary Portelli has declared his veteran sprinter Rebel Dane is “as good as ever” as he prepares to put experience to the test over youth taking on Capitalist in Saturday’s Missile Stakes.
The first Group race of the new season in Sydney, this year’s $175,000 Group 2 Mark Moran Missile Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick has attracted just seven final acceptors.
The inclusion of Peter & Paul Snowden’s Golden Slipper winning colt Capitalist has seemingly scared away a host of possible rivals, but not Portelli’s proven weight-for-age performer Rebel Dane.
A son of Written Tycoon, Capitalist makes his three-year-old debut against the older gallopers in the Missile Stakes in his first start since scoring the $3.5 million Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) back in March.
Capitalist may be young, but he flew in a recent 850m Randwick trial on July 29 doing everything right ahead of his resuming run where he’ll be out to make history as the first three-year-old Missile Stakes winner since Dance Hero (2005).
Portelli told Racing NSW he had plenty of respect for the odds-on favourite but he wasn’t prepared to rule out the winning chances of his California Dane seven-year-old either.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him and we’ve got to hope the weight advantage doesn’t come in to play and he’s still a bit green at his level,” Portelli said.
“Sometimes when they step up against the more seasoned horses it can be a bit of an ask for them but it’s still not ideal for us to come back and take on a horse of that level.”
Capitalist carries just 51.5kg in the Missile Stakes, jockey Kerrin McEvoy coming aboard in place of Blake Shinn who couldn’t get down to the feather weight.
Rebel Dane, who has 58.5kg on the weekend, was last seen finishing fourth as a $31 outsider behind English at the track in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) in mid-April, his 20th Group 1 assignment.
The stallion has a host of Group 1 and WFA experience but hasn’t won a race since taking out the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) first-up at Randwick last September.
The spring before he resumed with a close third when under a half-length behind Sweet Idea in the Missile Stakes, form Portelli is hoping the first-up flyer (8-4-1-2) can bring to the track this weekend.
Tommy Berry is booked for the ride, his first start in the saddle of Rebel Dane since a seventh in the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap to River Lad.
Berry got a feel for the horse again in a recent Warwick Farm trial over 807m run in the mud on July 25 when third to Vashka.
“It was good for Tommy to get a feel for the horse because back in his younger days he had a quick turn of foot and could make up two or three lengths right away, but he’s a bit older now and it takes a little longer to hit his top,” Portelli said.
“He’s going as good as ever and doesn’t seem to be any slower.
“In his trial he ran his last 600 metres in 33 seconds which was a good workout and he’s ready to go on Saturday.”
The only concern for Portelli ahead of Saturday is how speed and tactics will affect the results in a small field.
“It will be a fairly tactical race I’d imagine and you’d think it would be a race in two, however, these slowly-run sprints can make average horses look good because they’re not pushed early and it takes nothing out of their sprint,” he said.
“Most horses can run 33 seconds for their last 600 metres.”
Rebel Dane jumps from barrier two while Capitalist is one on his outside in gate three.