By Ray Hickson
Trainer Adrian Bott isn’t entertaining the possibility of beating Winx at Randwick on Saturday as he works to have Ecuador in prime shape for the Epsom later this month.
Sure, if Ecuador happened to cause an upset he and Gai Waterhouse wouldn’t hand back a Group 1 win that wasn’t in the planning.
But Bott said he expects Ecuador to stake his Epsom claims in the Group 1 $500,000 Colgate Optic White George Main Stakes (1600m) after he suffered a case of second-up syndrome two weeks ago where he ran fourth behind Happy Clapper in the Tramway Stakes.
“The 1600m is getting up to his preferred trip now and I think we saw that last start,’’ Bott said.
“He raced well fresh and probably lost a bit of that dash. I wasn't disappointed in the run but I think it showed he's looking for a little further.’’
Co-trainer Gai Waterhouse has won four George Mains – Juggler (1996), Grand Armee (2004), Mr Celebrity (2005) and More Joyous (2010) – and Ecuador (currently $26) is the stable’s leading contender for an eighth Epsom on September 30.
Bott said the stable was rapt with Ecuador’s first-up third behind Winx in the Warwick Stakes and wouldn’t be concerned if the tempo of the Chelmsford eventuated on Saturday.
Ecuador was runner-up to Winx in the 2015 Epsom.
“This is a natural progression towards the Epsom for us,’’ he said.
“How do you tip against Winx, she's been hugely impressive in her two starts but we're just preparing our horse to the best of our ability.
“The big question mark will be the tactics adopted by Red Excitement this time around.
“We don't mind a strong tempo either. He has the tactical speed if there isn't one but a strong tempo would play into our hands as well.’’
Waterhouse is eyeing an eighth win in the Group 2 $200,000 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) – the latest with More Strawberries in 2010 - with emerging filly Pandemonium who chases a hat-trick in her stiffest test to date.
Bott concedes the task is a tough one but if she’s going to be competitive in the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) coming up then she’s entitled to be in the finish.
Pandemonium broke her maiden at Kembla Grange on August 10 then led all the way over a mile at Warwick Farm also against the males on August 23.
The Punter's Intel data from the Warwick Farm win showed Pandemonium really put the foot down early with a 10.86 split from the 1400m to the 1200m and she broke their hearts with three successive sub 12-second sections down to the 200m.
“I think it is a form line that has to be respected,’’ he said.
“She hasn't raced in the same class as some of the other fillies but she has taken on the boys on both occasions and beaten them convincingly.
“The only knock is going into this race is she's taking the step back from a mile run. We've seen she has the tactical speed and she's rock hard fit from a good tough 1400m and 1600m run.’’