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It's Not Quite Game On Yet For Invictus

By Ray Hickson

There’s a much bigger picture involved when it comes to Invictus Prince, a horse formerly owned by The Queen, stepping out for the second time in Australia at Randwick on Saturday.

The import made an eye-catching local debut two weeks ago and trainer Matthew Smith is sending him around from the outside barrier in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1400m) because the race is an important stepping stone.

Invictus Prince is one of several horses carrying the Invictus name owned by war veteran Geoff Grimish – he also has Invictus Warrior with Chris Waller and Invictus Salute with Mark Newnham - and he’s keen to have them racing during October when the Invictus Games is in Sydney.

Of course, the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan will be in town for the event.

“It’s a big deal for him to have a horse racing then and his idea was to try to have some runners,’’ Smith said.

“This horse was purchased from The Queen so we’ve got to get it right.

“Because Geoff is very keen to run him during the period of the Invictus Games he’ll have to be running around or on Everest Day.

“He might have another run after this then a freshen up. Then we’ll run leading up to something like the Craven Plate which will be a nice race for him.’’

Invictus Prince runs an eye-catching fourth at Randwick on July 7

The Group 3 $500,000 Craven Plate (2000m) on October 13, one week before the Games start, is a lot more in the five-year-old’s comfort zone distance wise than Saturday’s 1400m and, as rapt as he was with the first-up fourth over 1300m, said it’s going to be tough for him to win.

Invictus Prince, who raced as Mainstream for Her Majesty, ran the third fastest last 600m in 36.83 and last 200m in 12.70, according to Punters Intel, behind Philosophy despite making his run closer to the inside in the straight.

On the strength of that run he’s been kept safe at $7.50 with TAB on Friday.

“He’s progressed really well but in fairness to the horse he’s going to be better at a mile to 2000m,’’ Smith said.

“He could win at 1400m I reckon if he drew a gate and everything went right.

“My expectation is he’ll be attacking the line late and be better when he gets over the right trip. We won’t be doing anything silly, he’ll be going back and coming out wide in the straight.’’

Smith said he could easily have scratched after drawing barrier 17 but there’s no guarantee he’d draw better next week and getting to the Invictus Games period with the right platform is important.

The gelding has some bad habits Smith wants to iron out and have him used to the Australian way before he gets into a distance range where he expects him to flourish.

“Over (in the UK) they race fairly loose and there’s plenty of room but her in a big field if you draw a good gate and get two or three pairs back you’re climbing over the top of them,’’ Smith said.

“We have to teach him to relax and do things right and if we do he’ll progress through the grades.’’

It’s a completely different scenario for another import stepping out for Smith on Saturday as Villardo faces three rivals in the Book Spring Now Handicap (2400m).

A last start winner over the same trip at Sandown, Villardo is the outsider with TAB at $5.50 and Smith said tactics are going to play a big part.

“In a small field like that they’re going to crawl,’’ he said.

“I’ll have to have a look at the race tactically. He raced right up on the pace in Germany and my bloke will run out the trip no problem.’’

All the fields, form and replays for Saturday's meeting at Royal Randwick

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