By Ray Hickson
The form student in trainer Patrick Payne is telling him promising three-year-old Cherry Tortoni can make a Group 1 raid on Royal Randwick on Saturday.
While last start Group 1 winner Montefilia heads the market, Payne believes the $1m Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) is up for grabs.
Cherry Tortoni won his first three starts back in the winter and Payne said his two runs in stakes company this spring have shown he’s crying out for more ground, hence the Sydney trip in preference to the Caulfield Guineas.
He found the smart Glenfiddich a bit too strong at the mile of the Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley but Payne is using the third horse, Holyfield, for an angle on the Sydney form.
“You have to respect the form but I thought it was a bit inconclusive,’’ he said.
“Glenfiddich was too good for him but I look more to Holyfield. He was able to get the better of Holyfield, I watched him work at Moonee Valley before he ran in that race and he worked pretty well.”
Holyfield is a two time Group 3 winner in Sydney and won the Ming Dynasty at Rosehill prior to the Stutt Stakes placing.
Payne said aside from Montefilia, most of the field, including the other Victorian visitors, has come out of provincial class into the Group level lead up races.
Cherry Tortoni carries some famous colours in the Spring Champion, the red with the white cap is synonymous with the Tait family’s champion Tie The Knot who won the race back in 1997.
The connection is even deeper than just the silks, Cherry Tortoni’s dam is a half-sister to Tie The Knot.
The gelding is one of only three runners under $10 in the Spring Champion, at $6 with TAB, and Payne is confident he’ll be in the finish especially if he takes advantage of a favourable gate.
“He’s a lovely horse to deal with, he has a great attitude and good turn of foot,’’ he said.
“He’s racing like a 2000m horse in both his runs this preparation. I think he’d struggle to finish in the first five in the Guineas but he’s a realistic top three chance in the Spring Champion.
“He’s a very casual easy horse to deal with. His best asset, he likes having a rest in the run and he can sprint.
"That doesn’t mean he can’t be just behind the leaders but it all depends on what happens to the first corner.”
Couldn’t catch him. Bold front running display from Fastnet Rock colt, Glenfiddich, in the Group 2 EJ Whitten Stutt S. at @TheValley. Bred, sold & part-owned by @edinburgh_park, Glenfiddich was purchased for $200k at the 2019 @mmsnippets Yearling Sale. #ItPaysToBuyAustralian pic.twitter.com/UTJD6qpHXz
— Aushorse (@Aushorse_TBA) September 25, 2020
James Cummings is giving lightly raced colt Choir the chance to emulate his half-brother Microphone and claim a Group 1 at Randwick.
Choir broke through for his first win at Moe in August then earned his trip back to Sydney with an eye-catching third over 1800m at Flemington two weeks ago.
That race was the Victoria Derby trial and Cummings said the Spring Champion will serve as another.
“He’s still raw and developing and he’s going to have to rise to the challenge of a Group 1,” Cummings said.
“He’s a maiden winner who is coming up against some very smart colts, but he’s shown the right kind of staying promise.
“The 2000m might be a bit short for him at this stage, but it will provide us with the right guide.”
Rachel King rides Choir, who is a $17 chance with TAB.