By Ray Hickson
You’d struggle to find a trainer with more public confidence in their horse than Richard Litt has in outstanding three-year-old Castelvecchio.
The Champagne Stakes winner is poised to start his spring in the Listed $150,000 Dulcify Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on Saturday, a race that will shape the rest of his preparation.
Litt has options to drop 100m into the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) in two weeks or set a path towards the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and is confident the colt is capable of winning either race.
“I feel like any owner in Australia would love to be sitting on Castelvecchio right now because he has a really exciting future in the next month and a half,’’ Litt said.
“The Golden Rose to me is his grand final. The 1500m run will bring his fitness right up to almost 100 per cent and ready to rock and roll.
“Beyond that we have lots of options.
“But if we make the decision to (miss the Golden Rose and) go to the Gloaming and then the Spring Champion, which his father did, then we can freshen up and go to the Bondi Stakes or head to Melbourne.’’
Litt is comfortable with his decision to use the Dulcify as his first-up run instead of the Run To The Rose over 1200m.
He said the race provides an ideal fork in the road and a fast run 1200m race could be a ‘gut buster’ with the potential to flatten him for that grand final.
“I’m not saying he wouldn’t be competitive, in terms of his first-up run 1500m even thought it doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people it’s going to be a lot easier for him naturally,’’ he said.
So with Castelvecchio holding $2.80 TAB favouritism to win first-up, what does Litt say about the colt’s two barrier trials?
He was beaten 17 lengths in the first, won by Redzel, wearing ear muffs and just under three by stablemate Joe’s Joy in the second with no head gear.
“I don’t ever worry about trials, I’ve never been paid for one and when I get paid for them I’ll start watching them closer,’’ he said.
“I use them for fitness, and experience, a day out. Both his trials were good, they served a great purpose.
“The horse is really fit, he’s had the two trials in a row which he hasn’t done before at 1000m and 1200m so progressing to 1500m isn’t a bother.
“He performs on race day. He switches on, he grows a hand, the blinkers go on, he’s a raceday horse.’’
Castelvecchio will be without jockey Josh Parr for the first time in a race on Saturday as Parr had a booking to ride the Mark Newnham-trained Shadow Hero in the Dulcify.
Litt said it’s a shame Parr can’t continue the association but has thrown his support behind Jay Ford, who has ridden for many years for the colt’s owners, the Galletta family.
If Litt elects to follow the path to longer races then the issue of who rides Castelvecchio could come up again with Shadow Hero heading to the Spring Champion via the Gloaming.
Castelvecchio runs fifth in a Warwick Farm trial on September 5
Newnham said his gelding, $12 with TAB, is disadvantaged by the wide alley but he’s playing a long game and is confident he will produce a pleasing first-up run.
“The 1500m is short of his best trip but from the outside draw he will be settling towards the back of the field which makes it hard to win around there in a race where there doesn’t look a lot of pace,’’ he said.
“He doesn‘t have much gate speed but if you draw one to five you settle two or three lengths closer just because you’re there.
“He’s going well enough to run well then I think you’ll see big improvement at 1800m next time and 2000m at Randwick.’’
Shadow Hero, fourth in the Group 1 JJ Atkins in Brisbane at his third start, has also had two barrier trials and after trackwork on Wednesday was given the thumbs up by his trainer.
“The first one was just to have a look around Rosehill because his first two runs are at Rosehill, the other day it was a bit more serious,’’ Newnham said.
“I jumped on him on Wednesday morning on the course proper at Warwick Farm. He has a good demeanour, a good constitution and he’s already showing good staying ability at a young age.’’