Bunbury trainer Gary Hitchcock believes with Smokin’ Bear and Corella he has two strong winning chances at Albany’s season-opening meeting on Sunday.
Smokin’ Bear, who headlines Hitchcock’s attack, is having his third lifetime start after a debut second to Fast Flowing (1200m) at Pinjarra in June.
Hitchcock expects the Bearcat gelding to strip fitter and display further improvement after an impressive hit out at Bunbury on October 19.
First-up off a four month spell and over an unfavourable 1000m, Smokin’ Bear was doing his best work late when fourth to Black Heart Bart.
Black Heart Bart, who ran three consecutive placings in Listed races at Ascot earlier in the year, flashed home to defeat Tre Amici by a neck.
“The winner and runner-up are capable of winning races in Perth so I take great confidence in Smokin’ Bear’s performance,” said Hitchcock.
“He hit the line strongly and it was a huge run considering he wasn’t suited at the distance.
“Even over 1200m on Sunday he is only going to get warmed up at the business end of the race.
“I’m expecting a real bold showing and go in with a degree of confidence.”
Corella’s favourable barrier draw and a return to her favourite course swayed Hitchcock to tackle a 62-64 rated handicap over 1200m.
The Flying Pegasus mare, in the hands of Mitchell Pateman, is out to build on her consistent strike rate from last season.
Corella broke her maiden status in Albany and also posted four placings from her five Great Southern appearances.
Hitchcock says punters should dismiss Corella’s previous outing in Bunbury and focus on her second-up record of two placings from as many starts.
The five-year-old is out to bounce back and atone after finishing last to Flytego when she commenced her campaign two weeks ago.
“She didn’t have the best of luck and got caught five and six deep in running,” said Hitchcock.
“There were genuine excuses and in the context I wasn’t disappointed by her effort.
“I contemplated racing her next Tuesday week in Bunbury but thought Albany was a better option.
“She enjoyed a terrific campaign in Albany last season and I couldn’t fault her form.
“Out of my two runners I have a slight leaning to Smokin’ Bear but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Corella figure in the finish.”
Julio Santarelli: RWWA