By Ray Hickson
It’s not lost on trainer John Sargent that Saturday’s Group 2 $200,000 Signace Tulloch Stakes (2000m) has proven, in recent years, the best path into the Australian Derby and that’s shaped promising stayer Favreau’s autumn campaign.
Sargent tested the water with the gelding in the spring, where as a maiden he ran a solid fourth in the Gloaming Stakes and fifth in the Group 1 Spring Champion, but he heads to Rosehill with back-to-back wins against his name and the confidence up.
“He was a bit weak in the spring, he ran good races but he didn’t know how to finish a race and put himself in a race,’’ Sargent said.
“The sole thing we’ve set him for is the Derby and the proven formula the last few years has been the Tulloch and back up a week later.”
Whichever three-year-old wins Saturday’s race they’ll be aiming to be the fifth successive Tulloch Stakes winner to take out the $2m Bentley Australian Derby on Saturday week after Quick Thinker last year, Angel Of Truth (2019), Levendi (2018) and Jon Snow (2017).
Favreau is pressing for favouritism in the Tulloch, $4.40 with TAB on Thursday, on the back of his strong finishing wins over a mile and Canberra and Kembla Grange and he’s cherry ripe for the step up in distance.
“As he showed at Kembla, Tommy (Berry) put him in the race closer to midfield and he attacked the line at the finish,’’ he said.
“He’s switching on mentally, he’s a lovely big staying gelding from New Zealand by Tavistock and I think he is getting it all together.
“It’s a lead up (to the Derby) but you’ve got to take them as you can because you mightn’t get to next week.”
James McDonald rides Favreau on Saturday but with a booking for Rosehill Guineas runner-up Sky Lab in the Derby the ride will go back to Tommy Berry next weekend.
Sargent believes at this stage of proceedings that the filly Montefilia is the horse to beat in the Australian Derby.
Different tactics will be employed on Elizbaeel with jockey Tom Marquand given the license to roll forward as she chases a Group 1 in the $500,000 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m).
The filly, placed in the Group 1 Surround Stakes second-up, was a beaten favourite when runner-up to Miravalle in the Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) three weeks ago.
“We probably rode her a bit negative at Kembla, she came home nicely but beaten by a better horse on the day,’’ Sargent said.
“I’ll probably let her roll on Saturday and just get into a rhythm. Tom is a world class rider, I’ll let him work out the sectionals and roll along and get into a happy rhythm.”
Favreau wins at Kembla Grange on March 12
The Vinery is a “fork in the road” for Elizabeel, $12 with TAB on Thursday, as Sargent needs to be convinced she’ll run out a strong 2000m.
“She’s out of a Zabeel mare but she’s by Power so I don’t know whether she’ll get it or not, if she does she will give them a good look.
“The owners want to have a go at this race and see which way we go. Whether we go back to a mile or up to the Oaks.”
John Sargent on Brandenburg (Star Kingdom): “It’ll be too short for him first-up but we gave him a good break after we gelded him. He’ll go to the 1400m (All Aged) on April 24 then go to Brisbane.”
On Readily Availabull, Gin Martini & Last Not Least (Schweppervescence): “Readily Availabull has a good draw, he had to go back to last in Melbourne and he had a brilliant finish but there wasn’t enough speed in the run. It was a very good run and he will be closer. Gin Martini has a horror draw and will need some luck, Last Not Least is a Fernhill or Champagne horse. If he gets a start he’ll run and he’ll be my Derby horse next year.”