By Ray Hickson
It might pay to check trainer Gary Portelli's mood as the recently gelded Single Bullet parades at Rosehill on Saturday for a guide as to whether the 'gear change' has had the desired effect.
That's because there's been no noticeable change in the four-year-old's behaviour around the stable but when Single Bullet is saddled up for the Lindt Handicap (1100m) how he behaves will make Portelli either buoyant or deflated.
"The whole demeanour as a colt was super until he got to race day,'' Portelli said.
"He became very stallion-like. He was difficult to saddle, you couldn't tie him up next to any other horses, if a grey pony went past him he'd try to mount it.
"He was a real bull and his concentration on racing was gone.
"At trackwork and in trials you'd see potentially a top class horse.
"Hopefully when we saddle him on Saturday we've got a gelding that doesn't care about anything other than getting out and doing the right thing.
Single Bullet wins his latest trial at Warwick Farm on August 10
"If he starts playing up when I'm saddling I'll be so disappointed.''
Single Bullet has only won the one race in 13 starts but that was the Group 3 Pago Pago Stakes in March last year and was a $4.80 second favourite with TAB on Friday.
He's been stakes placed on four other occasions and that's why he has 61.5kg in a Benchmark 78.
Portelli said the weight is a small issue but if all is in order with Single Bullet, as it appears from his two trial wins, his class will offset it.
"The handicap made it a little harder, he's not a big horse, but at least he's drawn a gate where he gets every chance,'' he said.
"His trackwork on Tuesday was fantastic, he's ready to run a good race.''
Stablemate Puppet Master ($14) doesn't have any will to win issues though Portelli said he has other limitations, not least if it happens to rain.
The gelding was an all the way winner at Canterbury on August 8.
"He's kept raising the bar and the one thing about him is he wins and you can't take that away from him,'' Portelli said.
"It'll need to be dry, if we get any rain that will unsettle the track I'll pull him out because he's hopeless on anything worse than good.''
Comments from Gary Portelli on his other runners:
Dio D'Oro (race 5, $13): "For him to be competitive in that field from that barrier it'd need to be heavy. These horses might be a bit sharp.
"If we want him to train on and go through to longer races we don't need to be three deep attacking a good speed first-up.
"We'll ride him back and hopefully they go quick and maybe he can attack the line.''
Exceltic (Race 6, $12): "The draw gives him every chance to fulfil the promise he showed early on. It was a good solid effort last time for a horse looking for further.
"The sectionals were quick between the 800m and the furlong and nobody finished off strongly late. He looked like he was having a dig and to me he was screaming out for 1400m.''
Testashadow (race 7, $15): "He's not an energetic track worker and we've had to really keep the work up to him. I've been going jumping with him and doing some different stuff, I shortened up his work on Tuesday morning and he had a real good half mile dash.
"While he was beaten by Single Bullet it looked like he was trying real hard to catch him. He's right at his peak, has no weight and a great barrier.
"That horse of the blue team (Avilius) looks like its a superstar but my bloke will be solid.''