Trainer Gary Portelli has described his last-start Festival Stakes winner Testashadow as being “spot on” for his shot at success in Saturday’s Group 2 $250,000 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
Last time out the Testa Rossa six-year-old saluted narrowly at Rosehill Gardens, just nudging out the Chris Waller-trained import Mister Sea Wolf for success in the Group 3 $150,000 Festival Stakes (1500m).
On the weekend Testashadow chases back-to-back Sydney Summer Racing Carnival victories lining-up in the Villiers Stakes field and Portelli is quietly confident.
“Testashadow is spot on, he is peaking for the Villiers,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“He looks fit now but before he was ‘fat’ first-up and then needed the run again in the Festival Stakes but is starting to ‘cut up’ nicely.
“He is very fit.”
In the Festival Stakes, which has proved a strong form race to follow into the Villiers Stakes in recent years, Testashadow was ridden to victory by Jason Collett.
A jockey change for Saturday’s mile showdown sees Victorian Ben Melham travel south and jump aboard the gelding for the first time.
Melham and Portelli combined earlier in the year for a huge autumn win with the filly She Will Reign in the Group 1 $3.6 million Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m).
“Ben has agreed to ride Testashadow in the Villiers and he will stay here until Tuesday morning so he can ride Secret Lady in a Warwick Farm barrier trial,” Portelli confirmed.
“I wanted him to get the feel of Secret Lady as he will ride her in the Magic Millions as well.”
Secret Lady was last seen winning the $150,000 Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill on November 25 and heads towards the Restricted Listed $2 million Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) on January 13.
Last December Melham rode the Kris Lees-trained Sense Of Occasion (2016) to an upset Villiers Stakes win at odds of $21.
The hoop chases successive Villiers Stakes winning rides this summer and his mount Testashadow currently sits as a $17 chance in pre-field markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
The in-form Godolphin-raced Interlocuter is the dominant early favourite in futures Villiers Stakes betting at $3.20 looking for a fourth win on the trot.
Other standout Villiers Stakes entries include the aforementioned Festival Stakes runner-up Mister Sea Wolf having just his second run down under, Liam Birchley’s Brisbane raider Crack Me Up and the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Cabeza De Vaca.
Two back the progressive Mossman four-year-old Crack Me Up won the Listed Recognition Stakes (1350m) at Doomben before running at the track again last Saturday four a close fourth in the Listed Brisbane Handicap (1600m).
Cabeza De Vaca meanwhile is out to atone for his eighth when three lengths beaten and crossing second last to Testashadow as the beaten favourite in the Festival Stakes.
The Northern Meteor six-year-old previously won five consecutive races including the November Handicap (1400m).
Jockey Joshua Parr comes aboard Cabeza De Vaca in the Villiers Stakes field riding the gelding for the first time since January.