By Ray Hickson
Is Castelvecchio the forgotten horse of the Inglis Sires?
It wasn’t that long ago the Dundeel colt with the booming finish was favourite for Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 feature and perhaps it’s a case of 'out of sight out of mind', or some recency bias with the Golden Slipper fresher in the mind.
As far as trainer Richard Litt is concerned, he doesn’t mind not having the pressure of heading into his first Group 1 race with the favourite but is also a little puzzled because he can’t see what the youngster has done wrong.
Castelvecchio won his first two starts, including the $2m Inglis Millennium, then ran a fast finishing third in the Skyline Stakes behind Golden Slipper runner-up Microphone before a freshen up and a closing fourth in a 1045m trial last Friday.
“From what I can see people looked at his trial and thought he could do a bit more,’’ Litt said.
“He’s had a break between runs. Is he fit enough? He has a trainer that’s not very well known. There’s a lot of factors plus the horses in the race aren’t slugs either.’’
The colt was $8 TAB favourite when nominations were taken for the Inglis Sires (1400m), he was $7 equal favourite earlier this week on acceptances but has fallen out of favour to be $10 on race eve.
Litt said from his perspective the build up to finally getting Castelvecchio out to 1400m has been faultless and said he purposely didn’t throw the blinkers on in the trial.
“He had a nice gallop on Tuesday and came through that really well,’’ he said.
“We’ve done everything right by him. Three weeks into the Millennium, two weeks into the Skyline, a little bit of a break and three weeks prep into this.
“We’ve taken our time and never put him under too much pressure so he’s going in a nice fresh horse.
“He’s very capable, it’ll just be luck in running and the best horse on the day will win.’’
A look back at the Skyline Stakes (1200m) on March 2, from a Punter’s Intelligence sectional perspective, Castelvecchio conceded an impossible start – when Microphone hit the lead at the 200m he was 14m behind and 7m off the second last horse.
The race was run faster than the other two 1200m races on the day and Castelvecchio posted a last 600m of 33.91, the fastest by a two-year-old, and a last 200m of 11.43.
Litt said all things considered the horse couldn’t have run any better under the circumstances.
“Good pace up front is what we need and I can see that happening,’’ he said.
“And a bigger field, 14 horses is going to be to his advantage. The other day the small field didn’t work for him, there was nothing for him to track into the race.
“How do you expect a horse to pick up and sprint past them with nothing around him, he’s only a two-year-old and a bit green. If something can pull him into the race it’d be good for us.’’
Castelvecchio's trial at Randwick on March 29
Most speed maps have Castelvecchio settling last and could eventuate though Litt said stepping up in trip could bring about a small change but won't be asking jockey Josh Parr to make a deliberate one.
“We can’t be changing his pattern but he could be a little bit closer, he doesn’t have to be out the back scrubbing and I think over 1400m he won’t be,’’ he said.
“I think he will track in nicely and he’ll be given every chance if he’s pulled to the outside. We’ll see how good he is, that’s for sure.’’
Litt has been saying all preparation he thinks Castelvecchio is a horse that will come into his own as a three-year-old over more ground but he could press on to the Group 1 $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m) in two weeks.
Given Castelvecchio is Litt’s first starter in a Group 1 race the occasion isn’t lost on him nor the significance of what a Group 1 win could mean.
“I know how hard it is to find a good horse, people go all their lives, and we’re not leaving any stone unturned,’’ he said.
“I’m confident going to the races that we’ve done everything we can to make sure he’s 110 per cent.’’