Three of Perth’s rising stars will go line up in this Saturday’s Vale Kent Johnston Handicap (1200m) at Ascot, in what shapes as the major highlight on the eight event program.

Three-year-olds Special Reward, The Velvet King and Lordhelpmerun occupy the top three spots in the TABtouch market at $1.95, $3 and 5.50 respectively, with the latter two starting out their campaigns.

The Simon Miller-trained Special Reward faces the biggest test of his campaign on Saturday, having won his first three runs since he returned from a spell in March.

The Demerit colt has to carry the top-weight of 58.5kg on Saturday and will jump from barrier 12 with Chloe Azzopardi aboard.

Miller said Special Reward would have to be at his best on Saturday, if he was to make it four wins in a row.

“It’s the hardest task he’s had to date,” he told The Races WA.

“It’s a good field, drawn wide and a change of hoop, he’s a chance.”

Miller said he would wait until Saturday before he decided whether to run Special Reward in next week’s Group 3 Roma Cup.

“I would’ve loved to have gone there, but I just don’t know,” he said.

“There’s some high credentialed horses heading in that direction and we will probably get penalised if we win it.”

The Velvet King, a multiple Listed race winner, was also in line to run first-up in the Roma Cup, according to trainer Darren McAuliffe, but he has elected to run the gelding this Saturday instead.

McAuliffe said he wasn’t sure whether he would have The Velvet King this campaign and admitted he was close to selling him overseas following a prosperous spring campaign.

“We nearly lost him to Hong Kong, we had a pretty decent offer there,” he told The Races WA.

“He was unsound for quite some time and had to have a decent spell which meant I got the opportunity to train him again.”

McAuliffe said he expected the son of Universal Ruler to be a more complete racehorse this campaign, following wins in the Lee Steere Classic (1400m) and Fairetha Stakes (1400m).

“He’s no doubt better,” he said.

“He’s always been doing it on pure raw ability.

“Ability wise, I think he’s the most talented Universal Ruler we’ve had.

“He’s got good tactical speed, good aerobic capacity and he’s just a cool horse.

“I think it would only be bad luck that would see him not running one-two.

“From the good gate, he will probably bounce and control from there.”

Lordhelpmerun endured a frustrating run over the spring, with a second placing to The Velvet King in the Fairetha Stakes sandwiched between unplaced runs in the Belgravia Stakes and WA Guineas.

The disappointing campaign followed the son of Playing God’s win in the Group 3 WA Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) last year.

Lordhelpmerun returns from barrier 13 on Saturday and jockey Shaun McGruddy said he’s confident of a bold showing.

“I’m very excited after I trialled him at Albany last Thursday,” he told The Races WA.

“He’s a lot more sound, he had a few niggling issues in that Guineas prep.

“He seems like he’s the finished product now.”

You can view TABtouch’s market for the Vale Kent Johnston Handicap here.

Saturday’s Ascot meeting gets underway at 12.24pm.

Tim Walker