When Testashadow was overweight and underwhelming at Rosehill a fortnight ago, Gary Portelli feared one of his favourites was nearing the end of his career.
So the Warwick Farm-based trainer was delighted to be proved wrong as Jason Collett saluted on the six-year-old gelding after his gutsy win in the Group Three Festival Stakes (1500m) feature at Rosehill.
Testashadow had not won since claiming the Magic Millions Cup on the Gold Coast in January and his second-last over the same trip when resuming left Portelli on edge.
“The way he went, I thought, you know, they don’t come back sometimes,” he said.
Portell was worried because he had employed the same lead-in to this campaign for a $50,000 purchase that pushed his earnings past $1.3 million on Saturday.
“I basically mimicked every preparation I’d done with him, same track work, same trials and I thought I had him where he needed to be.
“It was unbelievable. He went terrible first up and there were no excuses other than he was probably a little bit fat in the bird cage.”
So Portelli gave Testashadow a 1050m trial on Tuesday at Randwick and the fitness sharpen-up proved effective as he denied Irish import Mister Sea Wolf ($4.60) a win on his Australian debut.
Testashadow ($20) got in by a nose while Red Excitement ($13) was a neck third.
“At the 600 I was worried he (Collett) was starting to ask him for an effort and there wasn’t a whole lot there,” Portelli said.
He said Testashadow would now tread the well-worn Festival Stakes path to the Group Two Villiers at Randwick on December 16.
“We’ll see how he goes. It’s just good to see him back in the winner’s circle again. He’s been a great horse to us,” he said.
Testashadow’s eighth career win prevented $3.40 favourite Cabeza De Vaca winning six in a row.
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained gelding pulled up lame after finishing eighth.
Jockey Rachel King said although he set the early tempo, Cabeza De Vaca struggled on a track that was downgraded due to rain.
Veteran jockey Glyn Schofield was stood down for the remainder of the meeting on medical advice after injuring his neck when Japonisme reared in his stall and was scratched.