Gary Portelli Hopes Curse Rated Heavy

Rival trainer Gary Portelli concedes only the “Golden Slipper curse” can beat Capitalist in Saturday’s Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick.

Portelli, who saddles up Group 1 winner Rebel Dane in the $175,000 feature, made the big admission on Thursday despite 24 hours of torrential rain in Sydney, which surely favours his charge.

Rebel Dane is an old fashioned mudder, with three wins and two seconds in 10 tries on wet ground.

Added to that is the fact the sprinter goes like a rocket when resuming, with four wins and three placings from eight first-up appearances.

“At the weights, I just don’t think we can beat Capitalist,” Portelli said.

“We have to hope the Golden Slipper curse works on him.”

The so called “curse” has many derivatives.

If Capitalist salutes on Saturday then he’ll be just the third Golden Slipper winner over the past decade to have won first-up in the spring.

And unless you count Dance Hero, who was three days away from turning four when he won the Missile Stakes in 2005, no three-year-old has won the race in recent history — even champion galloper Lonhro had to settle for third in 2001.

Despite speculation that Capitalist might not run on Saturday, co-trainer Paul Snowden is suggesting the colt is ideally suited at his first crack in slogging conditions.

“He gets 7kg off every horse in the race bar one,” Snowden said.

If you’re going to test a horse out in unknown conditions like these then having that kind of weight pull is surely the most ideal time.

“Yes, we’re unsure if he will cope but what options do you have — wait until next week for the San Domenico Stakes?”

Therein lies a problem as well — both historically speaking and in terms of avoiding a gut buster first-up.

Only two Slipper winners have won the San Domenico — Sir Dapper (1983) and Tierce (1991).

“Plus he’d get 60kg and what happens if the track is heavy again? Then you’re running first-up on a bog with 60kg on your back,” he said.

“If he can handle the heavy then this week’s race is definitely the better option but even if he doesn’t handle it, you could argue he’s better running this week than next with the big weight and less time to recover.”

Rebel Dane resumed on a heavy track at The Championships two years ago and finished second to Lankan Rupee in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m).

“Same track and distance as this but two years ago he had a bit more acceleration,” Portelli said.

“But at least we’ve worked that out — if you watch his recent trial, he was niggled along a bit but Tommy Berry jumped off saying he kept picking up through the line.

“When he won first-up last spring, I told Brenton (jockey Brenton Avdulla) that he had to get rolling coming into the corner.

“Then first-up last time in when third in the Australia Stakes we got the tactics wrong. We tried to ride him closer to the speed and it’s just not his go.

“Basically, nowadays he takes a furlong to wind up. I’d say on Saturday we’ll be behind Capitalist in the run but we’ll be getting going around the corner.

“He’s nice and fit and ready to rumble. Win, lose or draw, Capitalist will know he’s had a run. He’s only ever raced two-year-olds, never a battle-hardened, tough, genuine weight-for-age galloper like Rebel Dane.”

Portelli has noticed a change in the son of California Dane, who turned seven on Monday.

“His times at trackwork and everything are the same but he’s 20kg heavier than he’s ever been at the same stage of his preparation,” he said.

“It’s a good thing because he’s always been a bit light and it’s been a struggle to go deep into a prep — I don’t think we will have that problem this time in.

“Hopefully being a bit fatter doesn’t compromise his first-up record.”

News: Nic Ashman, Daily Telegraph

Image: Simon Bullard