Progressive galloper Just Act Natural continues his comeback from a long injury layoff in this Saturday’s Listed Scenic Blast Stakes (1200m) at Ascot, with trainer Paul Roberts expecting further improvement on his first-up run.
The six-year-old made an encouraging return in the Miss Andretti Stakes on January 19, when beaten five lengths by Misty Metal in his first start since the Pinjarra Classic last February.
Roberts said he was pleased with how the gelding returned to racing and then how he came through the first-up run.
“I was happy with it, given it was his first run for a while and he only had the one trial quite a bit before it,” he told The Races WA.
“The pace was on all the way and I was happy with how he fought on to the line.
“He’s continued to eat well since the run and his work has been good too.”
Misty Metal headlines this Saturday’s $100,000 event, in what is likely to be her last start for the campaign, while last year’s winner Rebel King is also among the 11 to contest the feature.
Just Act Natural has drawn barrier five, with jockey Shaun O’Donnell booked to ride the son of Natural Blitz for the first time.
O’Donnell and Roberts have teamed up for feature race success in the 2012 Pinjarra Classic with Bites The Dust.
Roberts said Just Act Natural would likely take further improvement from the Scenic Blast Stakes, but felt he was in the best condition he’s ever been in.
“It’s a good field again on Saturday, but I give him a good chance,” he said.
“I expect to see him settle somewhere near the speed again.
“He may still be lacking a bit of race fitness.
“Fortunately, he’s held together and it’s probably as good as he’s looked.”
Roberts said the Pinjarra Classic (1300m) on February 24 and the Bunbury Stakes (1400m) on March 6 were likely targets for Just Act Natural beyond Saturday.
Misty Metal is a $1.85 favourite with TABtouch, while Abdicator ($4.80) and First Among Equals ($8) are the only other runners in single figures.
Just Act Natural currently sits at $19.
Meanwhile, Captain Stirling will be out to make it four consecutive wins when he lines up in the Pikey Pilgrimage Tour Trophy (1000m).
Trainer Roy Rogers has three runners engaged at Ascot on Saturday and labelled Captain Stirling as his best hope.
“Captain Stirling is absolutely flying,” he told TABradio.
“It was a really good run down the Pinjarra straight to run 57.01 and home in 33.30.
“He’s a horse that’s really improved.
“It’s a tough field, but he’s a light-weight chance and he’s my best.”
Saturday’s Ascot meeting gets underway at 12.58pm.