By Ray Hickson
More than requiring a win to feel he’s on track, trainer Gary Portelli just wants to leave Rosehill on Saturday with confirmation Time To Reign is still the horse he thinks he is and can focus on what the spring might look like.
The three-year-old half-brother to Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign has only raced once since he ran fifth in the 2019 Slipper and Portelli says his winter cameo in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1100m) is an important exercise.
“It’d be good to get a win under his belt and give him a short break and work out what the spring will be for him,’’ Portelli said.
“Covid changed everything for us, at one point I was happy to just trial him and put him away. He’s going well enough, there’s a race there so let’s have a race so when he comes back for the spring at least he’s had a run.
“He’s a more mature horse. I have him as fit as I can get him without racing and that’s the only thing, it’s been a long time since he’s had a run.’’
Time To Reign’s only appearance since last year’s Slipper was a fourth of five, beaten under a length, in the Listed Kensington Stakes at Flemington – he pulled up from that run with a respiratory complaint, requiring tie-back surgery, so had an excuse.
The colt has had an eventful build up to his long awaited return, he blew the start in a barrier trial won by Classique Legend, who won his winter cameo earlier this month, so that became a non-event then he recovered from a tardy start to easily win a 740m synthetic heat on June 16.
Portelli has engaged Glen Boss to ride Time To Reign and the champion jockey gave him a positive evaluation after trackwork on Tuesday.
“Bossy threw a leg over him and he was really happy with his recovery. He said ‘this is what a good horse should feel like’ so hopefully we get a good result,’’ he said.
“I know Bossy comes out to work on Tuesday from time to time and I’d hate to see (Time To Reign) out there having a gallop and Bossy riding someone else’s horse.
“He’s had a feel of him now and it adds to the confidence of the jockey knowing what he has underneath him.’’
So what is Portelli expecting from Time To Reign on Saturday, what’s a pass mark?
He was vying for favouritism after markets opened on Wednesday with TAB at $4.40 so that says his reputation has earned him some respect.
“You just don’t know what to expect against horses that are rock hard on soft tracks,’’ Portelli said.
“They aren’t machines, I can’t make him do things he’s not physically ready for. Race fitness is everything, I’m not going to worry too much this weekend because it’s what we end up with.
“If he got beaten I’m not going to cave in and think it’s the end of the world, obviously if he went disgracefully I would, but if he is beaten and ran third or fourth I know there is improvement in him.
“He might get butterflies first-up, get a bit worked up and not fire. I hope he does win, don’t get me wrong, but if he is beaten we won’t be losing too much sleep.’’
Portelli regards Time To Reign as a horse that should have appeal as a stallion, he’s a half-brother to a Slipper winner and won the Group 2 Silver Slipper himself, and will get the next season to prove himself.
Time To Reign wins a trial at Warwick Farm on June 16
The Warwick Farm trainer is reluctant to name particular races as spring targets, naturally Group 1s would appeal, at least until he sees what Time To Reign produces this weekend.
“When we were educating him early on he was a nice horse and when we started racing him you could see he was a proper racehorse,’’ he said.
“He’s not going to stud any time soon, he has another six or 12 months of racing in him and this is about getting him back on track.’’
Stablemate Dio D’Oro probably won’t get the very testing heavy conditions he relishes but Portelli said he’ll appreciate some give in the ground in the Hyland EOFY Sale Handicap (1200m).
The four-year-old hasn’t raced since April when unplaced on a good track but had been very competitive on heavy tracks prior to that effort.
“He trialled okay on the synthetic, he’s not a fast horse but he is a genuine horse and he gets through heavy ground very well so the wetter the better for him,’’ he said.
Dio D’Oro was rated a $15 chance with TAB on Wednesday.