By Julieanne Horsman
He has come within striking distance twice but a gear change could be what Last Starfighter needs to come out on top.
The two-year-old Star Witness gelding will wear blinkers when he lines up in the McGrath Estate Agents Plate (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday and Co-trainer Adrian Bott is confident of a strong showing.
“I expect him to be very competitive,” Bott said.
Last Starfighter was impressive despite his mistakes in a 2YO handicap at Rosehill Gardens three weeks ago. He was slow out the gates and travelled in last position until the turn for home. With 300m to go he was boxed in on the rail but then Silence kicked away and a gap opened. Jockey Rory Hutchings popped the question and Last Stargfighter chased hard, eating up the ground with every stride.
He finished 3rd, less than half a length behind winner, Silence and runner-up, Intrinsic.
“It was a huge run given the circumstances,” Bott said.
“He had to settle a lot further back than anticipated and they were running at a hot tempo.
“He ran some very sharp sectionals.”
Last Starfighter wandered a little bit in the straight and it’s hoped the addition of blinkers will keep his mind on the job.
“He should settle closer, as he did on debut at Canterbury when he ran 2nd,” Bott said.
"Adam Hyeronimus has the mount and has won a trial on a him before.
“Our only query is the surface.”
Royal Randwick is currently rated a Heavy 8 and while Last Starfighter hasn’t raced on anything wetter than a Soft 6, he galloped on Randwick’s b-grass last weekend.
“When he had his main gallop leading into Saturday’s race the surface was rain-affected,” Bott said.
“He seemed to get through that easily enough and we were happy with what we saw.”
Last Starfighter has been well backed and is currently the $2.80 favourite on both TAB Fixed Odds and the Tote.
He hasn’t raced any horses in the field before but will face three last start winners including Music Addition, Star Galaxy (also by Star Witness) and Florid who has proven to be effective on a heavy track.
Lippizan, a stakes-placed filly, has never finished outside the top three and will most likely be the early leader in the race.
Last Starfighter is raced by a large group of owners through Darby Racing. The syndication company has had an extremely successful year, topped by She Will Reign’s Golden Slipper win.
“Darby does a great job in selecting horses which provide a quick return for their owners,” Bott said.
“They’re great supporters of Gai and I and we hope to contribute to their success on Saturday.”