Warrnambool-based trainer Lindsey Smith cites loyalty and friendship as to why he won’t be taking over the preparation of two star gallopers from Perth.
Gatting and The Velvet King were in line to join Smith’s stable for a Melbourne spring campaign, but they will now be overseen by Peter Moody.
Gatting returns to Melbourne after clinching a boil over victory at $101 in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) last September, giving trainer Darren McAuliffe his biggest scalp in Melbourne.
The Velvet King, a Group 3 winner of the Northerly Stakes (1400m) at Ascot in October, is coming off a luckless winter campaign that saw the gelding run four consecutive placings in group races.
With Covid-19 causing havoc over travel restrictions and quarantine rules in Victoria, McAuliffe chose to remain in Perth and hoped Smith could handle Gatting and The Velvet King’s preparation.
The pair are being aimed at the Memsie Stakes (1400m), the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m), the Underwood Stakes (1800m) and the Caulfield Stakes (2000m) before they return to Perth for the Ascot carnival.
But with Smith’s star seven-year-old Scales Of Justice set to resume his own campaign and face off against Gatting and The Velvet King in coming weeks, the in-form trainer felt a sense of obligation to the gelding’s owner Chris Wells.
“I’m flattered by the offer, but Scales Of Justice is coming back and his main aim is the Memsie Stakes,” Smith said.
“There were a couple of text messages between Darren and me, but nothing was confirmed, it’s just a misunderstanding.
“The Velvet King and Gatting are both very good horses and if they were to beat Scales Of Justice, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
“Chris never spoke to me or discussed it, but he and I are great friends, he has been very good to me for a long time and I felt it was a conflict of interest.
“I would only have been baby-sitting the two horses for a couple of months before they went back to Perth anyhow.
“Flattered to be considered, but it just didn’t sit well for me to take them on.”
Smith said Scales Of Justice will target the Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) and Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, two races he won last year.
“His going along well and he will just have short preparations now, two and maybe three races,” Smith said.
“I’m happy with his work and look forward to him coming back again and hopefully have another successful campaign.”
At Belmont yesterday (Wednesday) Smith continued his excellent strike rate, preparing a hat trick of winners: La Vina, Continuance and Queen Takes King.