By Brad Gray
Diminutive filly Lipizzan hasn’t done a lot of growing since the last time we saw her but Gary Portelli has assured punters that her heart is still as big as ever.
The three-year-old resumes at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday in the $100,000 ATC Owners Benefit Card Handicap (1200m) and with rain forecasted, Portelli expects her to be fighting out the finish.
“She can gallop and being such a little horse she has got such a quick turn of foot through those wet tracks. We’ll be even more confident if the rain arrives,” Portelli said of the filly who boasts a second to Champagne Cuddles.
“She has had plenty of work and the 1200m suits her with the slower tempo where she gets into a nice rhythm. She’ll go forward and sit outside of the leader no doubt.
“She is all heart. You saw in her trial she hated David Pfieffer’s horse (I Am Excited) beating her. She is a little fighter and this sort of grade is where she should be which is why she missed the spring carnival. We were aiming at the Inglis race which is usually on in December but they changed it so she’ll have a few starts then freshen up and head to the Inglis race in February.”
Lipizzan only had the one trial, which is typical of her preparation due to her slight stature, with regular rider Rachel King providing Portelli a glowing report.
“Rachel came back with a smile from ear to ear. She said she was dragging her down the straight trying to win the trial and we were out there to give her as easy a trial as possible because she is a very lightly-framed filly and doesn’t take a lot of work,” Portelli said.
“If you lose 5kg or so off horses like this they can look quite skinny so my job is to get her fit without hurting her and we’ve given her a long steady campaign leading up to this run. She is spot on and ready to go.
Lipizzan trialling at Warwick Farm - October 24
Lipizzan’s two-year-old half-sister Perfect Pitch (by Pierro), has also found a home at Warwick Farm and is set to make her debut at Canterbury next week after winning a trial on her home track’s synthetic surface.
“She has shown plenty off the Pro Ride as well. It’s hard to make up ground on that track and for her to make it up like she did, she has a great length of stride. She is a classic looking filly and could get out over further. She is a beautiful black horse too. Black as black,” said Portelli.
“I’m looking forward to seeing her because she is a bigger version of Lipizzan already and has shown plenty. She’ll be a backmarker type but I really like her.”
Portelli’s two-year-old numbers have more than doubled on the back of the success of She Will Reign, who is due back at in the stable on Monday, ballooning from 15 to 40.
“It’s been exciting because everything that we have brought through has got some form of ability. There hasn’t been a slow one yet and there will be races for them all and their owners for the next two years at least,” he said.
“The standout at this stage has been the filly that raced on Saturday (Secret Lady). I think she is pretty good. There are a few more that have come back now, including Now Or Never who ran fourth in the Gimcrack and is a big monstrous filly. There are a couple of colts by Redoute’s Choice that I’ve got a lot of time for and a couple of Snitzels. There is a lot more depth in pedigree this year.
“We had 15 babies last year and eight of them won as two-year-olds so we’re hoping they train on as three-year-olds now as well.”
Despite taking out the rich juvenile feature last year don’t think for one minute it has contented Portelli’s appetite to add another one to his mantelpiece.
“I’d love to win two to prove it wasn’t a fluke to yourself and anyone else,” he said.
“It gives you a bit of confidence when you’ve won a Slipper. I’ve got the trophy right where I have to walk past before I go to work every morning and I make a habit of looking at it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to win and it gives you the confidence going to work that you’ve got the ability to do it.”
So what is about training two-year-olds though that Portelli finds so rewarding?
“We don’t push them. They just love to run. It’s like your own kids. You get out of them what you put into them. You watch them go out to race and there is so much they have to learn. They are very intricate and you have to really watch them – their reactions to different things you do with them for one. They always keep you on your game because babies will learn a bad habit much faster than an older horse,” Portelli explained.
Meanwhile, Portelli warned punters not to overlook unassuming six-year-old Testashadow when he makes a typically discreet return to the races at Rosehill.
“Every campaign the bar gets raised because of his benchmark and from preparation to preparation I’ve thought this is where we’ll be found out but he goes to another level. He is a very average track worker, he worked with a maiden during the week and he only matched motors with it. On race day the colours go on, he just pulls his socks right up and turns into different horse,” Portelli said.
“He usually runs a cracker first up and this preparation has been very similar to every other one. He has had a long steady preparation and he looks absolutely enormous with dapples on dapples. If I had to back him off track work I’d say he is an outsider’s chance but knowing full well how he goes first up he is probably a winning chance.”