Stefan Vahala has played the long game with Aztec Ruler; most of it planned, some of it not.

Vahala hopes adopting a patient strategy can begin to pay off both now and later in the year.

The now arrives as soon as Saturday, (weather permitting) in the Cyril Flower Stakes (1200m) at Ascot, Aztec Ruler’s first crack at Listed company.

If that plan comes to fruition first-up and his campaign to follow, Vahala will set sights on Aztec Ruler contesting rich Ascot carnival events in six months’ time.

Aztec Ruler was carnival bound two years ago, but suffered an injury setback and last year was fast tracking to the Pinnacles again before Vahala took a conservative approach.

The classy son of Universal Ruler won three races, ran second three times and didn’t finish below fifth in an ultra-consistent seven race campaign.

Valhala elected to spell Aztec Ruler after his victory in September, thinking the Pinnacles was out of reach with just a short gap between preparations.

Hoping it proves to be a wise decision, Vahala said Aztec Ruler had benefited and made significant improvement since his last preparation.

“He’s had a proper eight week spell for the first time in his life with no hiccups,” Vahala told The Races WA.

“He will be going to the races spot on and I couldn’t be happier with him.

“I think he will be super competitive and will run out of his skin.

“He’ll obviously improve off it being his first up run.

“We’re confident he’ll run a big race.

“I’m expecting him to run top three or four definitely.

“The way he’s working at home I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

With regular rider Steven Parnham riding in Melbourne on Saturday, Michael Poy has been booked to ride Aztec Ruler in the Cyril Flower Stakes.

Vahala said Aztec Ruler will also likely contest the Pinjarra Classic and Bunbury Stakes this time in.

Julio Santarelli