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Portelli Banks On O'Hara Magic To Continue Space Odyssey

By Ray Hickson

It seems one-time enigmatic young sprinter Spaceboy has found his perfect match in jockey Kathy O’Hara so there was no way trainer Gary Portelli would entertain breaking up such a winning combination as he chases an overdue city win at Randwick on Saturday.

Trainer Gary Portelli (Pic: Steve Hart).

In a refreshing change for the Warwick Farm trainer, Portelli is able to speak enthusiastically about Spaceboy who chases his third win this preparation in the Ranvet Handicap (1000m).

The gelding has started favourite in eight of his 13 starts, including his past five, and Portelli hopes O’Hara can work her magic a third time after guiding him to a three length first-up win at Kembla and a last start 4-1/2 length victory at Wyong.

“No-one else has won two from two on that horse so it’s pretty significant for mine,’’ he said.

“She knows him, he’s in a good place when she rides and last start was brilliant to watch. It was like watching one of his barrier trials at 9am.

“You start doubting yourself after a while. You have a horse that has good Saturday, if not stakes company, ability in trackwork and trials then they turn up on race day and blow a fuse with 200m to go.

“It’s been frustrating for us, for the owners and the punters.’’

There’s no doubt Spaceboy’s asset is his speed and Portelli notes there’s been a blueprint established by the Kris Lees-trained Witherspoon in the past month or so for winning these 1000m scampers at Randwick.

In his last start Class 2 win over 1100m at Wyong on June 18, Spaceboy ran a last 600m of 34.62 (Punter's Intelligence) on soft ground, over a length faster than the next best, with 59kg.

With just 55.5kg on his back Portelli said he expects O’Hara to follow the Witherspoon method and hopefully be the up and comer who knocks over more established horses for once in his career.

That’s part of the reason he selected the 1000m race over the 1100m option on Saturday where he would have carried 60kg.

“When you have the speed you’ve got to use it,’’ he said.

“We’ll be trying to emulate that filly of Kris’s, jump and put the foot to the floor and hopefully straightening up we have an unassailable break on them.

“The weight was a factor and the fact there are some promising three-year-olds coming through in the other race. There’s some upside to some horses we were carrying a lot more weight than.

“I know he runs a solid 1000m, I’m just hoping the track improves a little bit because on that real heavy it dulls his speed.’’

Spaceboy wins at Wyong on June 18

Meanwhile, Portelli said he’s continuing with Time To Reign’s preparation despite failing to beat a runner home in his return at Rosehill last week.

As disappointing as the run was Portelli said there were contributing factors and sees no point in stopping and starting again.

“As the gates were about to open he reared up. He was standing awkwardly, and when they opened he bungled the start,’’ he said.

“He was three deep and Bossy was in no man’s land. He grabbed the bridle in what wasn’t as fast run race as we were anticipating.

“I think he took one big breath and bolted, by the time he straightened up you could see him let it out and when they do that they stop quickly.

“He’s a horse that obviously doesn’t react well fresh but his second-up form is good so hopefully that continues.”

The colt will trial in two weeks time and line up in the July Sprint (1100m) on July 25 and then progress to the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) two weeks later.

All the fields, form and replays for Saturday's Randwick meeting

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