By Ray Hickson
Jason Collett has pointed to Graff’s flexibility as the ace up his sleeve in the Group 1 $1 million De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens.
The talented colt might have lost his unbeaten record when runner-up to Lean Mean Machine in the Run To The Rose but Collett said his effort after racing wide throughout was one of a Group 1 winner in waiting and is confident he can turn the tables on Saturday.
He's also looking to go one better than last year when he rode Champagne Cuddles into second behind Trapeze Artist in the Golden Rose.
“I think it was the performance of the race,’’ Collett said of Graff's last start.
“At that stage of the day the inside was gold, no horses were making ground out wide.
“He was wide with no cover, was flushed wider on the bend and loomed up to get over the top of Jonker and was run down by a horse who had a far softer run. And I wasn’t convinced we were that comfortable in the ground.’’
Graff was a solid $3.50 favourite with TAB on Wednesday to hand Lees his first Golden Rose win ahead of a trio from the Chris Waller stable, who won the race in 2013 with Zoustar, headed by Group 1 winner The Autumn Sun ($4.50).
Punters Intel data shows Graff covered more ground than any other runner in the Run To The Rose (1200m), an extra 6.7m, and despite a tough run still ran the second fastest last 600m of 36.71 and last 200m of 12.77 behind the winner.
After drawing ideally in gate four this time around, Collett said it will allow him to give Graff the run of the race as he chases a Group 1 breakthrough of his own.
“He is flexible which gives me options,’’ he said.
“He’s very strong, he has a big back end on him, he’s definitely well put together. He oozes class, good horses like him can do things others can’t.
“It’s a good opportunity for him, he has a better gate and a better track surface. The 1400m will be okay so it’s a nice race for him.’’
Graff's gallant second in the Run To The Rose at Rosehill on September 8
In assessing Graff’s opposition, Collett is very wary of The Autumn Sun and Zousain moreso than Run To The Rose winner Lean Mean Machine who he says was most advantaged in the conditions when they last met.
The Autumn Sun also lost his unbeaten record at the September 8 meeting, where he ran a luckless third in the Stan Fox Stakes (1500m).
“Lean Mean Machine in my opinion got through the track the best that day,’’ he said.
“He’s coming up against a proven Group 1 horse in The Autumn Sun who didn’t have a lot of luck that day and looked to have plenty to offer.
“I don’t think Zousain was overly comfortable on the surface as well. He came off my back and wasn’t able to finish off.’’