By Ray Hickson
There's a quiet confidence in trainer Gary Portelli that unbeaten youngster Time To Reign has gone up the notch he needed to be a live Golden Slipper hope.
And if the colt puts what Portelli has seen at home into the Listed $140,000 Darley Lonhro Plate (1100m) at Warwick Farm it'll be full steam ahead to next month's Slipper.
While the half-brother to 2017 Slipper winner She Will Reign has two wins on the board the trainer had doubts around the authority of those wins.
"We're very happy with him and I think we will get a lot of questions answered even for ourselves,'' Portelli said.
"His first two wins were okay, he got it done, there was nothing really brilliant about them. He was very tradesman like.
"I don't know where we are at. Everyone has seen what I've seen, he trialled enormous.
"We're looking forward to seeing what we've got to play with for the rest of the carnival.''
Time To Reign looked a more focused horse in his only trial ahead of Saturday's return.
He sits on the $15 line with TAB in Golden Slipper betting and $1.80 to make it three from three come the Lonhro Plate.
“Out in front he didn't really know where to go and what to do, he didn't run away from them like we were hoping to see,'' Portelli said.
“He was a late foal and we've seen him physically come on, mentally he's come on and has become a more aggressive horse.''
Portelli’s original plan with Time To Reign was to emulate She Will Reign’s preparation and kick off in the Silver Slipper in two weeks.
That race, and a meeting with Slipper favourite Tassort, is well and truly on the radar as it fits the trainer's preferred build up into the March 23 Slipper.
With $161,000 in the bank, including $45,000 in BOBS money, Time To Reign has basically secured his Slipper spot but a top two finish in Saturday’s race would make a bird of it.
Time To Reign wins a Warwick Farm trial on January 22
“We've come in two weeks earlier, instead of having two trials we go into this race then we take on Tassort when the horse is race fit,’’ he said.
“We don't have to win every race leading up, we just have to make sure he is peachy on the day.
“My job is to get the prizemoney to get him in then have him spot on for the Golden Slipper.’’
She Will Reign won the $1m Inglis Sprint on this day last year and, aside from Time To Reign, Portelli has high hopes for another successful meeting with Single Bullet chasing his third win from his past four starts in the Davali Thoroughbreds Cup (1000m) and Exceltic running in the Listed Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m).