Portelli's Rosehill Winners Saturday 2nd December

Dec 04, 2017

TESTASHADOW was coming off a poor first-up effort, looked “chubby’’ prior to the race and seemed to be under pressure before the home turn — but the tough sprinter still knows how to win.

Trainer Gary Portelli didn’t mind being proven wrong as Testashadow held off a surging Mister Sea Wolf to take out the Group 3 $150,000 Festival Stakes (1500m). Portelli admitted there had been worrying signs from his stable stalwart going into the race.

“Testashadow went terrible first-up, there was no real excuses except he might have still been a bit fat,’’ he said. “He’s an older horse now and might be taking a little longer to get fit so I gave him a barrier trial at Randwick last Tuesday just to try and get some weight off him.

“I still thought he looked a bit chubby today when I saddled him then at the 600m, I was even more worried because Jason (Collett) started to ask him for an effort and there wasn’t much there. But he kept at him and this horse is very tough — he will keep trying and he got the job done.’’

In an exciting finish that had everyone guessing, Testashadow ($20) held on for the narrowest of wins from Mister Sea Wolf ($4.60) with Red Excitement ($13) a close third. Favourite Cabeza De Vaca ($3.20) led for home but was under siege from the 250m and faded to finish eighth.

Testashadow, a six-year-old gelding, took his overall career earnings to $1.37 million with his Festival Stakes success, his eighth win from 37 starts prompting Portelli to declare: “He has been a great horse for the stable, Elite Thoroughbreds and his owners for a few years now.’’

Portelli said Testashadow deserves his chance in the Group 2 $250,000 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on December 16.

“I thought today we would learn where we are at with this horse,’’ Portelli said.

“My original plan was to give him a couple of runs and then go to the Gold Coast again where he won the Magic Millions Cup fresh last January but we will definitely go to the Villiers now.’’

Testashadow edged out Mister Sea Wolf in a tight finish. Picture: Jenny Evans

Ike’s Dream (2004), Utzon (2006) and Monton (2011) have won the Festival-Villiers Stakes double in recent years.

Collett thought he had “just got the bob in” on Testashadow in the desperate finish with Mister Sea Wolf.

“I tried to get his head down on the line, I felt like we just had it,’’ Collett said.

“He is a tough horse and he made me work for it today. From about the 1000m I was at him.

“At the 400m, I was hoping he would stay in contention then we have gone from one extreme to another and he charges to the front. We probably got to the front too soon but he wasn’t about to give up the lead. The rain helped too, it came at just the right time.’’

Testashadow completed a winning double for the Portelli stable, which also celebrated the win of juvenile filly Perfect Pitch in the opener. The renowned Warwick Farm horseman also had a win with Nicci’s Gold at Kembla Grange.

Trainer Gary Portelli had a good day with two winners at Rosehill and another at Kembla Grange on Saturday.

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Gary’s Perfect Pitch

FOR trainer Gary Portelli, the only surprising aspect of Perfect Pitch’s breakthrough win was the filly’s odds. Perfect Pitch was almost friendless in betting at $12 but indicated real potential with her fighting win in the Boom Summer Hospitality Plate (1100m) at Rosehill.

“I was pretty confident about her today but no one wanted to talk about this filly,’’ he said. “She had no luck at Canterbury on debut and should have finished a lot closer to Gongs. She has come on really well since that race and what you saw today was a good sign of things to come.’’

In a blanket finish, Perfect Pitch, ridden by leading apprentice Rachel King, wore down game early leader Miss Invincible ($4.40) to score by a head with a similar margin to the fast-finishing Toulouse ($12). Godolphin duo Colombina ($2.60 favourite) and Rheingau ($4.40) ran fourth and fifth respectively, less than a length from the winner.

It was the second successive two-year-old winner for the Portelli stable at a Sydney Saturday meeting after Secret Lady eight days ago.

“Perfect Pitch was floating around in the straight, changed legs a few times, and was never going to win until the last stride,’’ Portelli said. “She has a real stayer’s action and will be a great filly as a three-year-old. I doubt we will push on to the Magic Millions with her but I will sit down with the owners in the next few days and work out a program.

“I do think she is a promising filly, although Secret Lady is a better filly at this point.’’

King echoed Portelli’s assessment when she described Perfect Pitch as still “very green and very raw”.

“As she showed today, she only really hit top gear right on the line,’’ King said. “Even going to the barriers she wanted to go the wrong way down the track. She is still a baby like that but today’s race will definitely help her and bring her on a lot. She has a lot of ability and is going to get over further.’’

Gary Portelli says Perfect Pitch has a real stayer’s action and will be a classy three-year-old.

Usually when five in the race go over the line with less than a length separating them, it places a question mark on the form but the comments of Portelli and King, plus the quality of the placegetters suggest this will develop into a strong form race.

Miss Invincible carried her head high from the start, where she jumped brilliantly, went straight to the front and led until the final few bounds.

“She is a very nice filly and will improve a lot with that experience,’’ trainer Bjorn Baker said. “They only got to her in the last couple of strides so it was a very good effort.’’

The David Payne-trained Toulouse ran a blinder, unleashing from the back of the field to close late for third, impressing rider Blake Shinn. “This colt has talent, serious talent,’’ Shinn said.

Ray Thomas - The Sunday Telegraph - 02/12/2017