It looks a promising Ascot programme for Simon Miller and none more so than race one when exciting three-year-old Liberty’s Gem makes his much-anticipated return to racing on Saturday.
Miller has excellent claims with Muskets At Dawn, Eurosun and Nat The Fyfe, but it’s Liberty’s Gem that will command his attention in the Westspeed Handicap (1200m).
The Statue Of Liberty gelding has won three of his four races including the Group 3 Lee-Steere Stakes (1400m) and the Listed Placid Ark Stakes (1200m) last year.
Only a half-head second to Lindsey Smith’s Silver Magic Ships prevented Liberty’s Gem from completing a clean sweep in his maiden campaign.
Liberty’s Gem warmed up for his autumn and winter comeback with a successful trial win, cementing TAB favouritism over Malibu Style.
Liberty’s Gem holds the upper hand over Malibu Style after defeating the Magnus gelding in their two meetings last year.
However, with two runs back Malibu Style has the fitness edge and was a runaway winner over Madassa two weeks ago.
“I elected to give him a break after the spring and he has come back bigger and stronger,” said Miller on TABradio.
“Mentally he has come sharper as well and his main mission this campaign will be the Belmont Guineas (1600m).
“If he can run a mile it will plot a path for the summer carnival and if not we will change tack and go another way.
“Malibu Style was a really good win the other day and has fitness on his side.
“My boy is not fully wound up but his trial was outstanding and his work has been really good.
“He is a quality horse and you would think he would be very hard to beat in the race.”
Liberty’s Gem is the $2 favourite with the TAB. In a field of seven runners he has drawn barrier two for apprentice, Joe Azzopardi.
Malibu Style and Steven Parnham combine from barrier four. The three-year-old is rated a $2.50 chance.
Miller believes the 1800m of the Salute The Anzacs Handicap will bring consistent gelding Muskets At Dawn into strong consideration.
The Mutawaajid three-year-old is desperate to shed his bridesmaid tag after four consecutives placings this campaign.
“He has got stamina and will grind all day,” said Miller.
“The step up to 1800m will suit.
“It doesn’t look a strong race and I think he can get the job done.”
Muskets At Dawn, who will carry 57.5kg with the claim of Azzopardi, has drawn gate one. He is the $2.90 TAB favourite.
Miller has high hopes an outside gate and a step up in distance will give Eurosun an edge in the Anzac Centenary @Ascot Handicap (1500m).
The Haradasun gelding has found trouble in two starts back this campaign, but is poised to breakthrough and return to the winner’s list.
Azzopardi will ride Eurosun, who has missed the money just twice in seven career starts, from barrier nine. He is the $3.50 second favourite.
“He’s had no luck at his first two runs and out to 1500m will be a major plus,” said Miller.
“Out wide is a big help and he can make his run when he needs to.
“I would love to have him bounce back because he is a quality horse.”
Nat The Fyfe returns to Ascot after performing consistently at Pinjarra where he put together one win and three thirds from five starts.
A last-start fifth to Another Vision was his only blemish but Miller advises punters to dismiss the run.
“The track was rain affected and he was never comfortable in it,” said Miller.
“He is probably coming to the end of his preparation.
“It’s a step-up in grade but I’m sure he can a quit himself well.
“When he comes back he will make the grade for sure.”
Nat The Fyfe has drawn barrier one in the Westspeed Handicap (1500m).
RWWA: Julio Santarelli