Jockey Damian Lane is upbeat about his chances aboard Friday’s $150,000 Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) favourite Durendal who proved his straight track form with a Flemington win last time out.
On December 12 the four-year-old Medaglia D’Oro gelding, locally trained by Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra, won for the first time in three runs at Flemington in the $90,000 Western Health Foundation Handicap (1200m).
Lane was aboard the galloper for the eighth time from his 15 career starts to date for the win, Durendal’s first since saluting over the same distance at Pakenham in mid-October.
Third in his last black-type assignment beaten under a length by the winner Mohave in the Listed Queensland Day Plate (1200m) in Brisbane back in late May, the progressive sprinter is now clear favourite to win the Standish Handicap on New Year’s Day.
The race attracted a dozen final acceptors and is set to run as Flemington Race 7 at 4:06pm (AEST) on January 1 to kick off Group racing for 2016.
Durendal pays $2.90 in the current markets at Ladbrokes.com.au sitting ahead of the horse he beat home by a length last time out, the John O’Shea-trained Lonhro four-year-old Sarajevo ($6) in gate four with Craig Williams booked for the rematch.
Durendal may carry 55.5kg to Sarajevo’s 54kg minimum allocation this long weekend, but Lane is confident his mount is the deserving favourite and one to beat.
“He’s an ever-improving horse,” Lane told AAP this week.
“I couldn’t have been happier with the way he won down the straight at his first go and generally speaking they improve at their next go down the straight. So I’m excited to see how he goes.
“I think he really gets his chance.”
Further boosting Lane’s confidence in the bloodline of his Standish Handicap ride was his narrow win aboard Durendal’s younger half-brother, the fellow Ellerton & Zahra-trained Hard Spun three-year-old Tempered at Sandown on Wednesday over the mile.
Also confident the favourite can salute for the Standish Handicap punters this Friday is co-trainer Zhara who is especially pleased with the horse’s barrier six draw.
“He can get a bit of cover and come out and he’s going to get every chance from there. There’s no excuses,” Zahra said.
“He’s doing everything right so we’re confident going in there that he’s going to run a good race.”
Following Durendal and Sarajevo as the other single-figure Standish Handicap hopes this season are Tried And Tired ($6.50), O’Shea’s other representative Barbed ($8) and the 59kg equal top weight Group 2 winner Churchill Dancer ($8.50).
Leon & Troy Corstens’ Niello six-year-old Tried And Tired has won three of his six 1200m assignments to date but hasn’t been inside the winners’ stall since the Listed Christmas Stakes (1200m) at Sandown in Boxing Day of 2014.
He is two-from-four second-up however and comes off a resuming third to Wild Rain in the Listed Doveton Stakes (1000m) from December 5.