Top trainer Darren McAuliffe is unfazed by The Velvet King’s defeat two weeks ago and has cast aside any bad memories from the feature race at Belmont Park.
Following a brilliant return win in the Belmont Sprint (1400m) in May, The Velvet King went into the Hyperion Stakes (1600m) as favourite, but the race didn’t pan out as expected.
The five-year-old bungled the start and was held up for a clear run until the final 50m, but battled away to finish fifth and within two lengths of the winner, Valour Road.
McAuliffe has not dwelt on the loss and believes The Velvet King can rebound and restore favour with supporters in Saturday’s Group 3 Breast Cancer Research Centre Of WA-Strickland Stakes (2000m) at Belmont Park.
“He probably wasn’t a realistic winning chance once he got squeezed back and got pushed back to second last at the top of the straight,” McAuliffe told Tabradio.
“He hit the line good and even though he was chopped out late by the eventual winner and another horse he did as well as he could.
“It’s one of those situations I guess and you have to keep going forward and don’t dwell on it too much otherwise you chew yourself up inside.”
The Velvet King, just shy of becoming an equine millionaire, is having a second crack at taking out the Strickland Stakes after running third to Material Man last year.
McAuliffe says the gelding can go two spots better on the weekend and hand him a second Strickland Stakes trophy after Fuchsia Bandana won in 2015.
“He went well at the distance last year and I think he is an even better and seasoned horse now,” McAuliffe said.
“He’s had a really good grounding and we haven’t missed him in the last fortnight.
“He had a really good solid gallop again this morning (Thursday) and I’m very happy with him.
“If he steps cleanly, it makes his job considerably easier.
“It’s a good field and he has to do a few things better than what he did last start.”
The Velvet King has drawn barrier one for regular jockey, Mitch Pateman.
The Velvet King and Leading Girl currently share Strickland Stakes favoritism at $3.20.
Meanwhile McAuliffe says look for No Surrender to rebound in the Furphy Handicap (1400m).
The three-year-old ran poorly in the Raconteur Stakes (1400m), finishing last, but he’s fitness has improved in the last fortnight.