TWO-TIME group 1 winner Malaguerra is the favourite to capture Saturday’s Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot.
The five-year-old gelding comes into the feature following a stunning win in the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 5.
If Malaguerra can claim victory this week it will be his third win at the highest level and make it the first horse to complete the Darley Classic/Winterbottom Stakes double since the mighty Buffering saluted in 2013.
Malaguerra is currently the $3.20 favourite with Sportsbet, a quote which is deserved according to the online bookmaker’s Will Byrne.
“Malaguerra has made a steady rise through the grades this year and backed-up his BTC Cup win in Brisbane with another Group 1 (Darley) during the spring carnival,” Byrne said.
“He is in career best form and deserves to be on top of the chart.”
The son of Magnus and Blenchingly mare Tennessee Morn joined the stable of his current trainer, Peter Gelagotis, prior to his last group 1 win and in great condition.
“The horse came from Queensland and I felt we didn’t need to improve this horse, he was already proven and all I had to do was maintain the level of performance that he has previously shown,” Gelagotis said after winning the Darley.
“Winning [the Darley] probably exceeded the expectations of everyone, but not me and the Malaguerra team behind the scenes as there was a strong belief the horse was going super in track work and trials.
“Ben Melham has given me so much confidence every time he has thrown his leg over him, continually telling me the horse has improved and that he could feel so much more under the hood which really gave us the confidence to give him a spring sprinting campaign targeting the Darley/Winterbottom Double.
“So far things have gone to plan with a little luck along the way.”
It will be no easy task on Saturday, with Malaguerra coming up against the ultra-talented Terravista who returned to the track with a solid second in the Listed Mumm Stakes (1100m) at Flemington on November 3.
A winner of the 2014 Darley Classic, trainer Joe Pride said on Sunday that the chestnut gelding is ready to challenge for the title of the country’s best sprinter.
“The way he’s settled in here, I can see no reason why he cannot find his form this Saturday and if he can, then we’ve got plenty to look forward to next year with him,” Pride said.
“He’s a seven-year-old with just 23 starts next to his name so with those feet issues behind us, it’s time to press the button with him and see what he can do over the next 12 months or so.
“He’s so lightly raced and hasn’t really been taxed at all and so I’d love to think he could be around challenging for these big few races of the next few seasons.”
Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes
Rock Magic $7
State Solicitor $9
Vega Magic $10
Voodoo Lad $15