With rain of up to 20 millimeters forecast to hit Perth on Saturday, trainer Darren Taylor is hoping that the heavens open ahead of Belmont’s opening meeting of the year.
The Middle Swan-based horseman prepares a boutique team of gallopers and will be represented by stable flagbearers She’s God To You and Puli, who have had seven starts on rain-affected tracks between them for a combined four wins and three minor placings.
She’s God To You looms as a potential Listed Belmont Guineas contender off the back of a strong last-start win at Ascot on April 24 and Taylor is expecting another forward showing from the three-year-old when she steps out in the Amelia Park Handicap (1300m).
“We’ve been happy with her, she’s trained on,” he said.
“We didn’t really think about racing her again at Ascot.
“We always had in mind to come to Belmont over the winter and we picked out a few better races for her.”
Currently rated a $6.50 chance with TABtouch, the Playing God filly will have to overcome an extreme outsider barrier draw in the 13-horse field.
“Obviously there’s a few more quality horses in the field with her and the gate’s probably not ideal,” Taylor said.
“But she’ll run a race, that’s for sure.
“I think our intent would be try and get a little bit of cover and ride her a little bit back.
“In saying that, that’s always been our mentality that I think she would be a better horse being ridden a little bit quieter.
“I’m hoping that theory pays out and she can run a good race.”
Stablemate Puli ($5.50) has also been freshened up since finishing third to Fiery Bay at Pinjarra on April 11 and profiles brilliantly for the CTS Low Loaders Handicap (1200m).
The Dick Turpin four-year-old has raced at Belmont three times for two wins and a runner-up finish, including whilst also being a three-time Soft6-track winner.
“I’m really happy with him,” Taylor said.
“Again, we didn’t think about giving him a run at Ascot.
“He didn’t really like it there so, after Pinjarra, it was always the plan to give him a little let-up and wait for Belmont.
“I consider him to be 100 per cent, so I’m pleased with him.”
Drawn barrier two in a field of 11, Taylor is also looking forward to jockey Shaun O’Donnell reuniting with the gelding after the pair scored four consecutive wins together last winter.
“We’ve put the band back together,” he said.
“We’ve got Donga back on, he drew a gate and it’s his preferred distance at 1200.
Meanwhile, jockey Jade McNaught has a high opinion of the Paige Kenney-trained Vane Tempest after the filly’s first-up win at Pinjarra yesterday.
Now a winner at three of her seven career starts to date, McNaught says the temperamental daughter of Snippetson is full of talent.
“It was good to see her back to doing what we thought she could do,” McNaught said.
“I think you’ve just got to put a line through that last run last prep, I think she had a few issues coming to the races and she over-raced.
“She just doesn’t really finish it off if everything doesn’t go to plan, but if everything goes to plan I think she’s a pretty nice horse.
“She had the blinkers off and the ear muffs off, we just thought we’d go back to basics.
“She had all that on because she was hard to get into the barriers but we’ve sorted all that out and I think she’s a lot better with all the gear off.”
McNaught is excited to join forces With Queen’s Gift again at Belmont this Saturday when the King’s Troop two-year-old contests the Vale Jimmy Gallagher Plate (1000m).
Prepared by master trainer Fred Kersley, the filly is currently rated an $8.50 chance with TABtouch off the back of three-straight second placings.
“The poor thing has run into some nice horses unfortunately,” McNaught said.
“She’s a super-nice horse as well but she’s running into probably one of the best two-year-olds going around.
“The only thing is she maps a bit sticky, but she’s got speed and we’ll probably use that and hopefully look to find a spot on-pace.
“Her work was good on Tuesday and I’d expect her to go very well.”
McNaught also rates Comfort Me ($11) a winning chance when he resumes in Heineken 3 Handicap (1300m) for trainer Rhys Radford.
“Alongside Queen’s Gift, he’d be the best chance for the week, I think,” she said.
“His work at home is very, very good and he’s also run into a bit of bad luck in his runs as well.
“The draw’s sticky, but they tell me that might not be the worst thing for him because when he’s held up he doesn’t really finish off his races.
“I don’t know what the plan is yet if we were going to ride him forward, but I wouldn’t mind riding him back with a little bit of cover and get him into the moving line.
“If he brings his trial form and his work to the races I think he’ll run a very big race.”
McNaught’s other rides at Belmont on Saturday include Cuban Twist ($9.50), I’m Eugene ($51) and Long Knife Brother ($51).