By Ray Hickson
This might sound crazy but the major difference between Gary Portelli’s promising filly Secret Lady and his reigning Slipper champ is stablemate Straturbo.
More precisely, how each handles Straturbo when matched up in trackwork.
Portelli can see similarities between Secret Lady and She Will Reign in things like their toughness and appetite but didn’t quite see the same thing against his old warhorse sprinter on Tuesday morning.
“She Will Reign used to sit behind him and blow him away, this filly sat off him and worked with him,’’ Portelli said.
“I was hoping to see that from her too, I didn’t see it so I was slightly disappointed I didn’t see another She Will Reign in that gallop but it was good enough work to win most two-year-old races.’’
Secret Lady has her final lead up to next month’s Magic Millions in the New Year’s Day At Royal Randwick Plate (1100m) on Saturday, where she opened $4.60 second pick with TAB in a race that promises to be a tough one to win.
Following an all the way win in the Golden Gift at Rosehill last month, where Punters Intel data showed her running a slick 19.01 for the first 300m, Portelli had hoped to teach Secret Lady to settle a little off the pace in preparation for her target.
But that didn’t happen when she took on three-year-olds in a 792m trial at Warwick Farm on December 19.
Secret Lady winning her trial at Warwick Farm on December 19
“It’s not ideal, I was hoping to see how she’d react to being behind horses under race pressure,’’ he said.
“Lee Magorrian worked her with Straturbo on Tuesday morning on the course proper and she sat three or four lengths off him during the work and he waited for her to pick him up.
“She enjoyed being relaxed in behind and she quickened and strode up to him and they worked home solidly. If she has to take a sit I don’t think would be a problem.’’
Victorian jockey Ben Melham, who of course rode She Will Reign to Slipper success, rides Secret Lady on race day for the first time at Randwick having had a warm up in the barrier trial.
Portelli stressed while he’s keen to see Secret Lady have some cover he’s not going to try to force change on her at the expense of winning. And she must perform on Saturday to warrant heading north.
“Ben said when he went to ease her in the trial she was resenting it so he just let her breathe and relax,’’ he said.
“That might be the case again on the weekend. We’ll let her be where she wants to be. From barrier 10 it’s no good overthinking things, just jump out and keep her in rhythm.
“They’ll probably race off the fence anyway, it’s just a matter of looking after her and making sure she’s strong.’’
She Will Reign set a benchmark for Portelli to measure all future two-year-olds on and it’s a yardstick he’s not afraid to use.
Eating is something the dual Group 1 winner is good at, along with standing up to the workload required to be an elite racehorse, and Secret Lady can match her in that department.
Whether she’s a Slipper contender, post Magic Millions, remains to be seen.
“She’d finished her feed at 9am (Tuesday), we put hay in and by 11am the hay was gone,’’ Portelli said of Secret Lady.
“She probably got away on me between the last run and the trial. She had a massive blow after the gallop. She’s not peaking but she’s close enough. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a real tough run."
Meanwhile, Portelli said stablemate Perfect Pitch won’t head to the Gold Coast and is being aimed at the $250,000 Inglis Classic (1200m) at Warwick Farm on February 10.