Trainer David Hayes is confident he has former West Australian sprinter Vega Magic primed to make a successful return to racing in the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Saturday.
The Lope De Vega gelding hasn’t been seen since he finished last in the Everest on a heavy Randwick track in October, which ended a campaign that started on a winning note in July’s Bletchingly Stakes.
Vega Magic’s only other Sydney outing was in the inaugural running of the Everest in 2017, where he finished second.
Despite the poor performance in last year’s Everest, Hayes said he expected a much stronger showing in the sprint feature from the star galloper on the opening day of The Championships.
“He’s won a Goodwood first-up, which has never been done,” he told TABradio.
“He’s had the benefit of a trial up the straight and a trial at Randwick and a few nice gallops at Lindsay Park.
“He’s had two bad gates at Randwick and one of them he definitely should’ve won and the other was a quagmire, which we know he doesn’t like.”
Vega Magic trialled over 1045m Randwick last Friday alongside fellow T.J. Smith Stakes contenders Osborne Bulls and Santa Ana Lane, which he won by a ½ length.
The six-year-old settled on the speed in the trial and raced keenly, but Hayes said he wasn’t concerned by that.
“He needed the trial,” he said.
“He went quite fierce and fresh.
“He had a good sweat, but what I liked about the trial was after the post he pulled up a furlong later than everything else and was probably 15 lengths in front.”
Defending champion Trapeze Artist heads up the TABtouch market for the $2.5 million event at $4.20, ahead of Osborne Bulls ($4.60) and Pierata ($6), while Vega Magic is at $18.
Damien Oliver rode Vega Magic in the trial and retains the ride on Saturday.
While it’s not yet clear what Vega Magic’s short-term future holds after the T.J. Smith, Hayes said he wanted to try the galloper over more distance next spring.
“We’re hoping next spring to train him as a middle distance horse,” he said.
“He’s bred to run a mile and I think he could be a sensational miler.”
The T.J. Smith Stakes gets underway at 1.35 on Saturday afternoon.