By Ray Hickson
Trainer Gary Portelli will give promising youngster Rebel Shadow his chance at a spring campaign if he can knock over older horses at Warwick Farm on Monday.
The two-year-old, by Portelli’s former topliner Rebel Dane, produced a sizzling debut second at Canterbury last month behind Cape Breton, who subsequently won again, much to the relief of the trainer.
After settling near the tail he clocked 34.92 (Punter's Intelligence) for his last 600m, the only horse to break 35 seconds for the entire meeting, to go down by less than half a length.
“I was confident he’d run well. I told everyone he has got above average ability but I didn’t think he’d get back that far,’’ Portelli said.
“Jason (Collett) said if he’d drawn three or four he’s two sets back one off the fence and he just wins.
“I was a little concerned he was one of those horses that works really good at five in the morning but come lunch time he hasn’t got anything.
“His trials were only fair, hence the price ($21), but it was good to see him reproduce his trackwork.
“I just liked the turn of foot, which I wanted to see because we’ve seen it in trackwork a lot but we hadn’t seen in it his barrier trials.”
Rebel Shadow takes on the older horses in the Robrick Lodge Handicap (1200m) on his home track and Portelli said it’s always a good sign when a two-year-old can defeat his elders.
“It’s a good little test for him and if he was to win we’d pull up and look at something for the spring,’’ he said.
“We had to go a long way back and when he got back he wanted to fire up a bit.
“I’d think he would be in the first three or four rather than being back that far. With that run under his belt his fitness levels went through the roof.”
The colt was a $5.50 chance with TAB on Sunday and the only real query Portelli has is if the Warwick Farm track doesn’t respond to the sunshine of the past couple of days.
“He handles the wet but I’m not sure about his ability to handle a really heavy track, that’s the only question mark, but I think he has the class to win the race,’’ he said.
“The fact he’s drawn seven keeps us out of the worst ground.”
Rebel Shadow runs second at Canterbury on May 26
Portelli said an improving track would work into The Empire’s hands as he graduates to town in the Bowermans Commercial Furniture Handicap (1300m) on the back of an easy second-up Newcastle win.
The three-year-old, a winner of thee from seven, carries 58.5kg after the claim for in-form apprentice Reece Jones, fresh from riding four winners at Randwick on Saturday.
“It was a good win last week at Newcastle up on the pace,’’ Portelli said.
“I like the quick back up of a fit horse going onto a wet track.
“He’s probably better on slightly better ground but he’s fit enough to run well. He’ll be up there and getting every chance.”