Having baulked twice before at sending his smart sprinter Alfa Oro (NZ) (Bachelor Duke [USA]) to stakes company, Mornington trainer Matt Laurie wants to give the 5-year-old one more chance to 'build the picket fence' before taking on the better sprinters.
Alfa Oro, a winner of five of his seven starts, including his past four, is an acceptor for both the Listed Testa Rossa S. at Caulfield (1200 metres) on Saturday and the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge BM84 over 955 metres at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
Laurie won’t make a final decision until the morning of the race but is leaning towards what looks an easier assignment for Alfa Oro, who has drawn barrier one on Friday night.
"It's one of those ones, I might decide at 7:28 Friday morning," Laurie told TDN AusNZ. "I'm leaning towards the Moonee Valley race because that's the one he has been aimed at all along. He’ll be cherry ripe for that, but I'm slightly concerned that while he's quick, he's not super quick out of the gates, and he might get hemmed away.
"The race on Saturday is a small field and they may not go that quick and that might negate some fitness queries. I think we’ll probably end up going with our original plan at The Valley and if it doesn't work out, we’ll use it to build him for the next race."
Taking the easier option is no reflection of Laurie's opinion of whether the horse is up to tackling stakes company. He has always held the New Zealand-bred sprinter in high esteem and he holds entries for both the G1 Manikato S. and G1 Darley Sprint Classic later in the spring.
He was set to start in the Listed Carlyon S. last month, but Laurie scratched him after all was not quite right with the gelding. Given his history of injuries, Laurie was happy to be cautious and freshen him up for the spring.
"He was prepared to go a while back, but I wasn't too happy with him. Since then, he's been really good. I've been really pleased with him. I think he's going particularly well and it would be nice to keep the picket fence going," he said.
"I'm hopeful that he can win the next one and then is going to reach stakes company from there on in, maybe something like the Caulfield Sprint or the Schillaci are good options for him. We’ve always managed to place the horse very well, knowing full well that he was a serious horse."
A $240,000 purchase from the Regal Farm draft at the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale of 2YOs, Alfa Oro had two runs as a 2-year-old before suffering a serious leg injury which saw the promising galloper sidelined for 20 months.
With those issues in mind, and knowing he can step through his classes, Laurie has been happy to slowly build with Alfa Oro.
"By default, we missed all those two and 3-year-old races and are very grateful to have him back in the game. Because of it, we have been able to take our time and place him, but eventually, you get to a point where you can’t and you just need to take on the better horses. We are just about at that time."
-Thoroughbred Daily News