Promising Murwillumbah three-year-old Macchina Volante has lived up to trainer Stewart Campbell's bold early assessment and will be Grafton Guineas-bound after he chases a fourth straight win at Casino on Thursday.
Macchina Volante, a $25,000 purchase by Campbell last December, has won three of his four starts for the Murwillumbah trainer and can extend his winning run in Thursday's Benchmark 66 Handicap (1400m).
Thursday's meeting was originally set down for Lismore but the track was deemed unfit for racing after a stewards' inspection earlier in the week and transferred to Casino.
The Benchmark 66 was originally a 1513m at Lismore but drops to a 1400m event at Casino. The Casino track was rated a heavy 8 on Tuesday morning.
Macchina Volante previously had two starts when trained at Randwick by Peter Robl, finishing third on debut at Cessnock on October 28 and fourth at Hawkesbury on November 13 before he went up for sale.
Campbell said he has Robl to thank for landing the gelding for $25,000 at an Inglis Online Sale last December.
"He was originally passed in, but Peter talked it over with his owner and suggested $25,000 was actually a pretty good offer in this current climate and we were able to get him," said Campbell.
Campbell didn't take long to realise he had purchased a galloper with some ability, even before he had sent him to the racetrack.
"I told all the owners back on Boxing Day that I thought this horse would be an ideal Grafton Guineas horse come July, so his terrific recent form really hasn't surprised me at all," said Campbell.
"He's been going great and it's never easy for a horse to win his maiden and then win his next couple of starts. I think he's got plenty of potential and I'd like to think he'll be capable of winning in the city down the track."
The Hinchinbrook gelding scored at just his second start for Campbell when he won his maiden over 1200m at Murwillumbah on March 23, then had eight weeks between runs before upsetting the $1.40 favourite Astralis in a Class 1 over 1200m at Murwillumbah on May 31.
He completed his hat-trick at Grafton on June 11 when he drew away for a dominant 2.5-length win in a Benchmark 66 Hcp (1430m).
He's also proved he can handle a variety of track conditions, winning on a good 4 and a soft 5 in his two Murwillumbah wins and on a heavy 8 at Grafton last time, although Campbell isn't convinced he was completely comfortable in the conditions.
"He got through it okay, but I'm not convinced he was all that happy on the heavy track at Grafton," said the trainer.
"And dropping back to 1400m on Thursday now that the meeting is switched to Casino is probably not ideal, but the 1400m at Casino is pretty tough with the uphill climb and probably more like a 1500m anyway.
"We decided the race this week was a better option than tackling the Grafton Guineas Prelude on Sunday. It gives him an extra few days before he runs in the Guineas over the 1600m, which looks an ideal trip for him."
The $80,000 Grafton Guineas (1600m) will be run on Ramornie Handicap Day on July 8.
Macchina Volante has already recouped his purchase price in just four starts, much to the delight of Campbell and his other 18 co-owners.
"We have a big team of owners from various places and backgrounds. The trouble is, about eight of them are first-time owners and this horse has made them think that winning races is pretty easy!
"Unfortunately, with the coronavirus restrictions in place, none of them have been able to be on course to cheer him on yet."
One of Macchina Volante's main dangers on Thursday if the track remains in the heavy range could be the wet-track specialist Real Gent, trained at Grafton by Greg Howells.
Real Gent has won four of his five starts in heavy ground and is also a two-time winner second-up form a spell. The five-year-old resumed at Ballina last start on June 8 with a 2.6-length fourth to Lucap in a Benchmark 58 over 1300m.