Geoff Van De Molen admits Planets Align has been a genuine surprise packet but he modestly downplays his part in the gelding’s sharp improvement.
After landing at Van De Molen’s stables unraced and with a modest trial record, there was little for the North Dandelup trainer to be excited about.
But after a maiden win on debut at Northam and a follow up victory at Ascot mid-week, the future suddenly looks a whole lot brighter for Planets Align.
“I think if he had any issues previously they were immaturity,” said Van De Molen.
“I was a little sceptical at first but he is a beautiful looking type.
“I’m just really pleased for the owners who are getting a good return on their $1000 investment.
“They are loyal stable clients who don’t have a lot of horses but just love being involved.
“He has really come a long way and has the makings of developing into a nice stayer.”
The step up in distance looks a nice progression for Planets Align who found the line strongly when he defeated Moonsearch by a long neck over 1800m last month.
The four-year-old is certain to carry good support as he attempts to extend his unbeaten sequence to three in the Tabtouch Provincial Stayers’ Heat (2019m).
“I’m really happy with him going into this race,” said Van De Molen.
“I don’t think it’s any harder than what he met last time out.
“I am confident he will run well and hopefully qualify for the final.”
Planets Align has been gifted barrier two in a field of 16 rivals. Champion jockey William Pike reclaims the ride from, Shaun McGruddy.
“We missed out on Willie last time because he had a niggly injury,” said Van De Molen.
“There is no disrespect to Shaun but it’s been Willie’s ride all along.
“To have him on gives you a great deal of confidence on race day.
“He can make all the difference.”
Last start Bunbury winners The Ladies Choice and Shinta Mani appear to post the biggest threat to Planets Align.
Our Mate Al, prepared by Graeme Ballantyne, has been placed twice this campaign and is warming up to a win.
Brian Kersley’s stable has struck form in recent weeks but his talented mare Dabang has drawn wide.
The $75,000 Tabtouch Provincial Stayers’ Final (2200m) will be run at Ascot on November 28.
Planets Align has filled a big void for Van De Molen with stable star, Proceedwithcaution, facing an injury-enforced stint on the sidelines
The Trade Fair gelding gave Van De Molen, a one-time stable foreman to Darren McAuliffe, his best win since joining the training ranks 15 months ago.
“He is coming along nicely,” said Van De Molen.
“It was only a minor injury, but each scan has shown improvement.
“There is no time fame on his return, but I won’t be rushing.”
RWWA: Julio Santarelli