By Ray Hickson
It’s well known that Matt Vella’s had his hands on plenty of topline gallopers before they were stars – TAB Everest winner Classique Legend is one – but he’s excited to see where promising colt Blaze A Trail can take him in the coming months.
The dream with the son of Criterion is to reach races like the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas and $2m Australian Derby so Saturday’s The Agency Real Estate Mile (1600m) at Randwick is an important step on the journey.
Nobody missed Blaze A Trail’s first-up performance in mid-January and Vella is adamant he’ll only improve and if he does then targeting autumn carnival features becomes a reality.
“It might be dreaming a little bit but when they get up to 2000m as long as they can stay and have that little turn of foot, which he does, they are always a chance,’’ Vella said.
“I’ve educated and galloped Everest winners and Slipper winners and it’s just good to have one in my name to take potentially to the bigger races.
“I’ve never had a horse of this calibre, I’m a bit lost there, but I have a lot of people helping me.
“I ride all my own trackwork so it’s really exciting to be taking these horses to the races instead of riding them and giving them to other people to take to the races.”
A Guineas or a Derby might be at the pipe dream stage right now but Blaze A Trail, despite not winning fresh, is already going up a notch in class after that pleasing return for a closing second behind Tycoonist over 1300m at Rosehill three weeks ago.
So he’s passed his first test by making the transition from a couple of provincial wins at his first two starts for Vella to where he is now.
“I’m using these benchmark races to tell me whether he’s going to measure up,’’ he said.
“I knew it was going to be too short for him first-up but I thought I’d see how he measured up and then take the next step.
“It’s the same with this run. If he was to come out and win or run the way he did first-up I’d push along that path.”
Vella broke in and pre-trained Blaze A Trail before he was sent to the Snowden stable as a two-year-old where he made an impressive debut to run third in the inaugural $1m Golden Gift (1100m).
That performance surprised Vella who had Blaze A Trail pegged as a staying type and since the colt has been back in his care he’s seen nothing to change that view.
“He was always a big raw horse, he never struck me as an early sprinter but he obviously showed them a bit of toe or they wouldn’t have pushed him,’’ he said.
“He never jumped at me as an early two-year-old, I’ve broken in a lot of good early two-year-olds and he didn’t strike me as one of them.
“Early days we thought he was a bit ungenuine, a bit of a non-trier the way he went, and I’ve learned he’s very green and very raw.
“But he’s genuine in the way that he tries and he’s very versatile now that he’s learned to relax.”
Blaze A Trail runs second at Rosehill on January 16
Blaze A Trail was $3.80 favourite with TAB on Wednesday as he steps out to the mile and Vella said the forecast has him confident of lining up but he stresses he doesn’t fear a wet track as the preparation unfolds.
There’s no doubt he’s looking for the extra distance though, interestingly, Vella said he could still be vulnerable and hopes James McDonald can give him a peach of a ride.
“I did expect him to run well but being first-up in that grade I was happy to watch and see how he went and he really hit the line well,’’ he said.
“He’ll want 2000m soon so I’m just getting him up to the right distance, I hope I’m doing the right thing putting him in the mile second-up.
“I know it sounds silly but if it was 1500m I’d be very confident. I know it is only an extra 100m.
“He’s going to run well but it’s there in the back of my mind that he might just be slightly underdone for the mile at Randwick second-up.
“I think it is important he saves as much ground as possible, he’s not going to be able to do too much and still be strong late.”