By Ray Hickson
They aren’t the A-graders yet but trainer Chris Waller has Group 1 targets for a trio of three-year-olds returning at Randwick on Saturday.
The unbeaten D’Argento, along with Merovee and Paret have been identified by Waller as potential Guineas colts but have to face off in the Nelune Foundation Handicap (1300m).
Waller said he wants to have runners in both the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) on March 10 and the Australian Guineas in Melbourne on the same day but the trio still have to prove their worth.
“They are horses we have identified as being Group horses,’’ he said.
“It's important for the second raters, which these guys are now, to have a run under their belt when the big boys come back. They have to improve but they are capable of it.’’
Al Mah Haha, a first-up Canterbury winner, adds to the depth of the Waller contingent at Randwick though is also accepted for an easier race at Canterbury on Friday night.
The grey D'Argento hits the line late in his trial at Warwick Farm on Monday
D’Argento posted two narrow wins in July in his first preparation where he earned his autumn campaign after showing Waller the potential is there.
The grey is certainly not the complete package yet but he’s come a long way and the champion trainer has used his two recent trials to iron out some chinks in his armour.
“If he had one it was to go a little bit keen so we've worked hard to switch him off and settle,’’ Waller said.
“Hughie just asked him to quicken a little bit and brushed him home the other day which I think was good, especially for a colt because they do need to be reminded of what they are there for.’’
D’Argento is the $2.60 favourite in early TAB markets and Waller said punters shouldn’t read too much into the booking of Hugh Bowman for one horse over the other despite having ridden all four.
“Hugh can’t ride them all,’’ he said.
“We backed off this horse the right time, that would normally be in your favour when they return. I think he will need a mile to get to his best but it is a good starting point.’’
Waller is hoping a failed Melbourne spring run is the making of Paret ($4.40) who he’s now convinced is going to be a genuine miler.
“I made a mistake by running him overt 1000m at Flemington, I thought he was a natural speedster,’’ Waller said.
“The positive is it has taken the nervous energy out of him. He actually came back and relaxed well and he's done the same in his trials.’’
Waller sent Paret to Canterbury on Monday morning for a course proper gallop instead of having a second barrier trial.
Merovee, the outsider of the field at $15, is of course a Frankel colt and a Group 1 win in Australia would see his value soar.
He’s already had a taste of Group company over a mile with a second in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle in September before a break.
“I'm hoping he's matured, in the autumn you'd expect him to reach racing maturity,’’ he said.
“He's had a couple of quiet trials because he just showed a tendency of being a bit keen last prep. We just have to make sure he switches on race day.
“I think 1300m is a good starting point for him. All four horses I think have bright futures.’’
As for Al Mah Haha, Waller said having a run under his belt would be an advantage if he runs at Randwick: “He did a good job to win over 1100m first-up. He's a nice colt and wherever he runs he will be competitive.’’