Prominent Perth owner-breeder Bob Peters is as good a judge of horseflesh as there is, but despite his experience and racing acumen, enigmatic galloper State Solicitor has tested his patience.
Peters has a big opinion of State Solicitor, who has won nine of 15 starts, but the richly talented Nicconi gelding, who has collected close to half-a million dollars with prize money and Westspeed bonuses, faces a seminal race in the Prince Of Wales Stakes (1000m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Along with stable mate Celebrity Dream, State Solicitor gives Peters’ a two-pronged attack in the field of 10 starters, a Group 3 race he won previously when Elite Belle upset hot favourite Barakey in 2014.
Celebrity Dream, coming off a top third in last Saturday week’s Listed Crawford Stakes (1000m), holds second favouritism ($4.40) behind market leader, Dainty Tess ($3.50). After opening at $9 State Solicitor has drifted to $14.
Punters are rapidly losing faith in State Solicitor and are willing to risk him, their confidence shaken after he ran a disappointing sixth to Dainty Tess when returning first-up in the Crawford Stakes, beaten by 3 ¾ lengths in a small field.
It continued a series of disappointing runs for for State Solicitor, who has not been sighted in three appearances since taking out his first black-type race in last Novembers Group 3 Colonel Reeves Stakes (1000m) at Ascot.
But Peters, who is largely understated and not prone to over exaggeration and embellishment of his horses, says he is hoping State Solicitor’s talent and class can come to the fore once again in the Prince Of Wales.
“I don’t know what to do with this horse, he has got me bluffed,” Peters said.
“He is looking better than he ever has in his life.
“We can’t find anything wrong with him.
“He had all sorts of tests since his last run.
“He looks the part and has matured.
“I can’t put a finger on why he is running like he is.
“He does have a lot of ability and is probably one of the best sprinters I have had.
“If he comes back to his best he will win the race.”
William Pike has jumped off State Solicitor to ride Celebrity Dream, in a direct swap with Peter Hall, who partners State Solicitor.
Six-year-old Celebrity Dream charged home strongly in the Crawford Stakes after getting held up in the straight.
Peters’ heaped praise on her run, her first in nine months.
“I thought she was very good,” Peters said.
“I brought her back with the intention of taking her through the mares’ series, but this race was there and she is ready.
“She ran well above what I expected.”