By Ray Hickson
Jockey James Innes Jnr will have the option of settling flashy three-year-old The Face just off the pace at Randwick on Saturday instead of being the designated leader.
Co-trainer Sterling Alexiou said plenty of thought went into which race the dual accepted The Face would contest and he and Gerald Ryan came up with the ANZ Bloodstock News Handicap (1100m).
It’s not so much because he’ll only carry the 54kg, as opposed to 59kg against his own age, but there are fewer unknowns in the race and the fact he’s been exposed a long way from home in his two second placings since a break was significant.
“They looked very even races on paper and you could argue there’s a bit more speed in the race we chose to run him in,’’ Alexiou said.
“He’s not necessarily a one dimensional leader and he could just get a sit on Saturday whereas the three-year-old race lacked speed and he was going to have to do it all himself.
“He’s drawn gates his last two where he’s had to roll forward and burn them off and he’s probably found himself a sitting duck.
“We’re not necessarily trying to ride him with a sit but the option will be there if it presents.”
It took Group 1 placed filly Forbidden Love to cut The Face down in the Listed Gosford Guineas at the end of last month and he missed a crucial trial leading into his resumption when Salina Dreaming nabbed him in the last few strides first-up.
Alexiou said a return to stakes company is likely for the gelding, $2.40 favourite with TAB, if he can get the job done on Saturday.
“I thought his two runs in have been tremendous because he’s had to do all the work himself on speed and he hasn’t been sitting down,’’ he said.
“He's still got to go out there and win it and he’s still a raw individual but he has the engine and hopefully he can put it all together.
“If he happened to win we could give a bit of thought to running in the Eskimo Prince, although you’ll strike some nice horses fitness can take a horse a long way in a race like that.”
The Group 3 Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on February 6 is also slated to be the return race for Bondi Stakes winning stablemate Peltzer, who will have his second trial back at Rosehill on Wednesday.
It’s likely The Face will miss the bulk of the autumn carnival when races like the Hawkesbury Guineas and a Queensland campaign will be on the radar.
“Physically he’s still a bit weak and mentally he is still putting it all together but over the next six to 12 months, as he gets a bit more racing nous, he could develop into a pretty handy sprinter,’’ Alexiou said.
“Although he has good gate speed and a high cruising speed I think in time he is a horse that could find himself racing over 1400m.”
The Face runs second in the Gosford Guineas
Cisco Bay has struck a purple patch of form and Alexiou can’t see any reason why he won’t be competitive in the Drinkwise Mile (1600m).
The Nowra Cup winner will drop 4kg on his narrow defeat to Snowfire, who is also among his opposition on Saturday, and will meet that horse 1kg better at the weights.
“Although he’s been with us a while he’s sort of struck his groove in the last six or eight weeks at home,’’ he said.
“He appreciates getting his toe in but those really heavy tracks just take the edge off his finish. When he got into a dogfight with Snowfire he probably just out-toughed us.”
Meanwhile, Alexiou said it’s all systems go for Standout to defend his crown in Saturday week’s Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m).