The decks have been stacked against The Velvet King, but top trainer Darren McAuliffe has a few tricks up his sleeve in an attempt to spark the four-year-old to victory.
A major player in Saturday’s Group 3 Seacorp-Hyperion Stakes (1600m) at Belmont, The Velvet King will attempt to break through after running two cracking races in defeat.
Beaten by the narrowest of margins, the Universal Ruler gelding can give McAuliffe his third Hyperion Stakes victory after Fuchsia Bandana (2015) and Gatting (2019).
A winner of over $700,000 in prize money and bonuses, The Velvet King ran a short-neck second to Vega Magic in the Roma Cup (1200m) after racing wide throughout.
Two weeks later in the Belmont Sprint (1400m) he finished a nose shy of Perfect Jewel, his hopes hindered when he commenced slowly from the starting gates.
McAuliffe is optimistic a gear change can help The Velvet King atone for his two close defeats.
“He hasn’t been sharp out of the gates so I will try a couple of tricks,” McAuliffe told The Races WA.
“The tongue tie comes off. Some horses can resent them and it might be playing on his mind.
“We will also trot him around the gates to keep him warm, Hong Kong style.
“If he begins well it’s going to take a big performance from someone to beat him.”
Barrier four is the starting point for The Velvet King, one of three runners for McAuliffe with Gatting and Abdicator pressing their claims.
Gatting’s preparation hit a minor hurdle after jockey Lucy Warwick injured her ankle at Belmont Park on Wednesday.
Ruled unfit for Saturday’s meeting, Warwick rode Gatting in the Roma Cup and Belmont Sprint.
McAuliffe said in-form jockey Kyra Yuill will partner Gatting for the first time.
“Kyra is in form and will suit the horse,” McAuliffe said.
“I’m more than happy for her to ride the horse.”
Likely leader Abdicator has drawn ideally in barrier one. Jarrad Noske the gelding’s jockey.
After opening the $3.30 favourite, The Velvet King is out to $3.80.
Mississippi Delta has firmed from $3.80 to $3.60.
Gatting is $7.50 and Abdicator $34.
McAuliffe said The Velvet King is the pick of his three runners.
“We are going to get good rain in the next couple of days and as we know all three of my runners appreciates soft ground,” McAuliffe said.
“We will have a formidable attack, but definitely The Velvet King is the pick of them from my mind.”