Gary Portelli has always held an opinion of Exceltic, which has yet to be matched on the track, but the trainer knows the reason behind that.
On a day when Portellis most frustrating horse Single Bullet is once again a favourite, a mature Exceltic will hopefully get the day off on the right foot.
“He has always shown talent and ability but we have been nursing him rather than training him,” said Portelli of Exceltic.
“He was soft boned and went sore a few times. But he trialled like Phar Lap a couple of times as a two-year-old and got us excited.
“He ran third in a group 3 on debut and that shows the ability he has.”
Exceltic has grown into his body and the soreness concerns are in the past but Portelli still had in the back his mind that he did his best work fresh. This time he took the three-year-old straight to the races without a trial to break his maiden at Gosford a couple of weeks ago.
“I remembered his trials and I thought we would try something a bit different with him and go straight to the races,” Portelli said. “He really found the line, even though he was a bit soft.
“It really helped him and there has been a fair deal of improvement. We are staying at 1000 metres but he will be flying home at the end.
“This is the first time we have not had to careful with him. I just want to keep him winning and see where he goes without too much pressure.”
While Exceltic has tested Portellis patience, Single Bullet has gone beyond that. He was a Pago Pago Stakes winner as a two-year-old and went into the Golden Slipper with good hopes last year, which Portelli won with She Will Reign.
The trainer didnt think it would take another 18 months for Single Bullet to register another win. Portelli had the consolation of being a runner-up in a group 2, a group 3 and listed sprint but racing is about winning.
“I have never had a horse like him. He showed so much potential and got so close so many times,” Portelli said. "When he actually won in October it was a relief because I was starting to think that day wouldnt come again.”
The win was a charging effort over the Randwick 1000m, the course where he lines up on Saturday. There is some fair opposition with topweight Jungle Edge, a multiple group 1 performer, especially on wet tracks. There is Frolic, the Golden Slipper runner-up to She Will Reign which has gone through a winning drought of her own.
“He is going to have to be at his best to be running a horse like Jungle Edge down,” Portelli said. “I dont want to be too far off him at the top of the straight.
“Thats what happened last start when it was a sprint home and he had too much to do. If he is in striking distance I would like to think he will make a race of it because he seems to be at the best at Randwick.”
Michael Freedman is back in Sydney and training Frolic in partnership with Edward O'Rourke after a stint in Hong Kong.
“Hopefully she is going to come back to somewhere near her best form but I think the jury is out a bit until we see her under race conditions, Freedman told Racing NSW.
“Its difficult for any horse coming back from surgery, and she had two lots. Having not been here I havent seen physically how she looked in her last couple of preparations but according to Ed this time around she looks as good as she ever has.
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald