Damien Oliver knows a thing or two about good horses, so trainer Tony Gollan’s ears would have pricked up when the champion hoop nominated the rides he is most looking forward to during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“I galloped Nettuno at Flemington last Friday, and he went super,” Oliver told RSN radio this week.
“I was really happy with his work, it [the Coolmore Stud Stakes] is going to be a tough race but he gave me a lovely feel and I think he might surprise a few people.”
Nettuno will step up to Group 1 company for the first time in Saturday’s $2 million dash down the famous Flemington straight, and given his sire is I Am Invincible the colt’s worth as a future stallion prospect would be stratospheric if he could add his name to its illustrious rollcall of champions.
Nettuno burst onto the scene with back-to-back wins in Queensland earlier this year – the first by almost five lengths – and although he has been unable to add to those victories in his three runs (all in Stakes races) in Sydney this spring, a runner-up finish and two fourth placings is not to be sniffed at.
His most recent run in the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) at Randwick saw Nettuno finish four lengths behind fellow Queensland galloper Best of Bordeaux, who after coming third in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) could back up for his trainer Kacy Fogden in the Coolmore.
Despite all his achievements as a trainer Gollan has never had a runner in the Coolmore, but he was persuaded to give Nettuno a shot at the big time after Oliver’s glowing appraisal of the colt.
“Ollie wanted to get a feel for the horse, and he was thrilled with him in the jump out,” Gollan told the Courier Mail.
“He was still a bit tardy away, but the main thing is that he relaxed and was strong through the line. I have a big opinion of the horse, I don’t believe he belongs in second tier races and Ollie has given me even more confidence.
“We were both very happy with his work, and I think it’s a very open Coolmore this year.”
After Rothfire’s runner-up finish in the Manikato, Rob Heathcote has decided to press onto the $3 million Darley Champions Sprint on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival next Saturday (5 November).
With the likes of Nature Strip and Everest conqueror Giga Kick both expected to line up in the race, the “Thriller from Chinchilla” faces a serious test of his credentials.
But Heathcote is nothing if not game and whatever happens in the Champions Sprint, with a Group 2 win and more than $500,000 in prizemoney earned from his three starts in Melbourne during the Spring Racing Carnival, the son of Lyndhurst Stud’s stallion Rothesay has already furthered the reputation of Queensland’s racing and breeding industries.