By Ray Hickson
Team Levendi may not rival the numbers of Team Redzel but the celebrations might if the emerging three-year-old can cap a sharp rise to the top on Day 1 of The Championships at Royal Randwick.
Trainer Peter Gelagotis, his brother Manny and their team are well known in Melbourne for their exuberance after winning a big race. It’s heart on the sleeve excitement.
Gelagotis said he’s learned to savour every moment in his time as a trainer and if Levendi can win the Group 1 $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m) on Saturday it’s odds-on there’ll be a post-race performance from connections.
The video below, tweeted by Tony Ferraro (managing owner of Gelagotis' Group 1 winner Mourinho), is after a win at the Warrnambool carnival last year. This is a huge Group 1!
“The opportunities are few and far between for the numbers we turn over,’’ Gelagotis said.
“Turn the clock back 10 years and I’d be going to the races and watching Group 1s and saying ‘I’d love to be there one day myself’.
“All of a sudden you’re in the coalface and competing and winning. It all comes together and you reflect on those opportunities and think good things do happen when you persevere.
This is what Moss'n'Dale did to Peter Gelagotis earlier this month at Warrnambool. Let's hope the dance continues in today's Echuca cup.🙏🏇🏆 pic.twitter.com/WLlVSpVQGO
— Tony Ferraro (@tonyferraro3) May 28, 2017
“The key ingredient is a good horse.
“There’s a lot of good trainers out there, probably better than me, who don’t get that opportunity. I hope my fellow trainers do get that chance one day because it’s a great thrill.’’
Gelagotis said Levendi, winner of the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) last Saturday, has always struck him as a potential topline middle-distance horse and he’s now realising that promise.
The colt set the brothers back $140,000 and Gelagotis, who has won Group 1s with Malaguerra and Mourinho, believes the best is yet to come.
“His pedigree suggested there’s a chance he’d be a Derby horse,’’ he said.
“When Manny purchased him it was as a miler/staying commodity and the fact he won as a two-year-old is a super bonus. The writing was on the wall early that he was a really good horse then you wait for the pedigree to kick in.
“His granddam was an Australasian Oaks winner so the blood is there for him to stay. The style of horse he is you could see he was going to get a trip.
“In his earlier runs he’s shown a good turn of foot over short distances and I think all those things combined equate to a good horse that can sustain an 800m gallop under pressure.
“Any of the good horses I’ve ever had anything to do with that’s what they do.’’
You only have to look back 12 months for the last Tulloch Stakes winner to back up seven days later and claim the Australian Derby (Jon Snow).
Punters Intel revealed Levendi ran 11.96 for his last 200m in the Tulloch and was surging on the line, suggesting to Gelagotis that a Derby trip won’t faze him.
Levendi proves the stronger stayer winning the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill last weekend
“He was loafing doing it, approaching the furlong he was having a good look and a think about things,’’ he said
“To the horse’s credit he wants to be a winner and it is nice to see him doing it late. Had they gone another furlong he would have accounted for that opposition quite handsomely.’’
Gelagotis wasn’t on track last week as he was in Dubai, where their classy sprinter Illustrious Lad finished fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint, but his first stop back was to check on Levendi and he said he couldn’t be happier.
The Moe trainer has had two previous Australian Derby runners – Big Col ran 11th in 2009 and Hvasstan ran sixth in 2013 – and from barrier three believes it’s now all up to Levendi.
“This game can be kind and it can be cruel and barriers help you win races,’’ he said.
“We’ve been here a couple of times and had no luck. There’s not 10 lengths between the field so you need things to go right on the day.
“The form suggested he’d be in the mix last week, we supported our horse accordingly and he didn’t let us down. It was exciting and we roll into a big one with a lot of favours.
“If he’s good enough on the day he’s good enough.’’
Levendi was an $11 chance with TAB following Tuesday’s barrier draw.