By Ray Hickson
The first 100m and last 100m of the Sires’ told jockey Josh Parr two things about Castelvecchio – he’s not a one-dimensional finisher and that he’ll be cherry ripe going to Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Like most observers, Parr says it’s hard for a horse, particularly a two-year-old, to continue to win when conceding big starts and that has been apparent as Castelvecchio has stepped up in class.
But it’s stepping up in distance that could bring the key to the colt posting a breakthrough Group 1 win for trainer Richard Litt in the $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m).
The Champagne is a race that holds a special place in Parr’s career – in the 2010 edition he won his first Group 1 race when guiding Skilled to victory for Peter Snowden and Darley.
“He’s a very inexperienced horse who has won in incredible fashion so far,’’ Parr said of Castelvecchio.
“I get great confidence out of how he raced the first 100m of the Sires because I think in time he won’t be as one dimensional he looks right now.
“For the first time in his life he began well and in the first 100m he showed intent to want to travel into the race.
“Shortly after that he copped a check and that put him back out of the race. But he was still able to travel up behind them.’’
Castelvecchio finished third in the Sires’, over 1400m, and it was evident in the concluding stages that the five weeks between runs, following his closing third in the Skyline, was telling.
Punter’s Intelligence data shows Castelvecchio has produced the fastest last 600m in all four of his starts, the latest a 36.96 (the only horse in the Sires’ to break 37) two weeks ago.
But it’s in the breakdown of that last 600m which shows the colt knocked up at the business end – he ran the fastest 600m-400m (12.06) and the fastest 400m-200m (11.87, only horse to break 12) but the third best last 200m of 13.03.
“The gap between runs definitely told against opposition that had come out of a testing run in the Slipper,’’ Parr said.
“I was happy to see him quicken, reach his top speed and look like he was going to win the race but then he got tired. That said to me that there is improvement.’’
The TAB market says Castelvecchio ($3.60) and Sires’ runner-up Loving Gaby ($2.30) have the Champagne between them and Parr sees it that way too.
And based on what he saw in the Sires’ he won’t be giving the filly as much head start – at least that’s the plan from barrier four.
“He doesn’t have to be close, I’m not going to ride him out of his pattern, but he could be in front of three, four, five horses and with less ground to make up in the race,’’ Parr said.
“It’s just an opinion at the moment but he does look a horse that will relish the 1600m.’’
Castelvecchio runs third in the Group 1 Sires' at Randwick on April 6
Parr could claim genius status if he pulls off the Group 1 double on Castelvecchio and his ride Lanciato, a $34 chance, in the $600,000 Schweppes All Aged Stakes (1400m) because they are both going to require perfect timing.
Lanciato, like Castelvecchio, is known for his booming finish but Parr said over the past couple of seasons he’s become a bit lazy early in his races – a by-product of being taught not to over race.
So when Parr was legged on board the six-year-old in a barrier trial earlier this month his job was to give the horse a wake up call.
“Lanciato had a tendency to over travel early in his career so what Rachel (King) was doing was getting him to settle,’’ he said.
“The horse developed a bad habit of flopping out of the barrier and dawdling the first 100m. That’s why in the trial we needed him to press early and try to change that habit.
“He doesn’t over race any more so we used the trial to show him there’s another way.’’
The gelding hasn’t raced since he finished fourth under top weight in the Newcastle Newmarket on March 8 – a year after his last win in the same event.