Portelli, Melham join forces again with Villiers hope Testashadow

Dec 12, 2017

THE Golden Slipper-winning combination of trainer Gary Portelli and jockey Ben Melham is joining forces again to chase more big-race success at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Portelli has enticed Melbourne-based Melham to travel interstate and partner the in-form Testashadow in the Group 2 $250,000 Villiers Stakes (1600m).

Earlier this year, Portelli and Melham teamed up for a famous Golden Slipper win with “Cinderella” filly She Will Reign.

“Ben has agreed to ride Testashadow in the Villiers and he will stay here until Tuesday morning so he can ride Secret Lady in a Warwick Farm barrier trial,’’ Portelli said.

“I wanted him to get the feel of Secret Lady as he will ride her in the Magic Millions as well.’’

Melham is chasing his second successive Villiers Stakes having won the feature Randwick “mile” on the Kris Lees-trained Sense Of Occasion last year.

Portelli is growing increasingly confident he can make Melham’s Sydney “long weekend” prove worthwhile because the trainer is taken by the improvement in Testashadow since the gelding edged out Mister Sea Wolf in the Festival Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill this month.

“Testashadow is spot on, he is peaking for the Villiers,’’ Portelli said. “He looks fit now but before he was ‘fat’ first-up and then needed the run again in the Festival Stakes but is starting to ‘cut up’ nicely.

“He is very fit and will have his final fast gallop on the track (this morning).’’

Testashadow is among 18 entries for the Villiers, which include boom Godolphin galloper Interlocuter, last-start Goulburn Cup winner Dark Eyes, ageless Destiny’s Kiss, Cabeza De Vaca, Crack Me Up, Federal, Mighty Lucky and Red Excitement.

TAB Fixed Odds price assessors opened Villiers Stakes betting on Monday and installed Interlocuter as the $3 favourite ahead of Mister Sea Wolf ($8), Crack Me Up ($9) and Cabeza De Vaca ($11).

Testashadow is on the next line of betting at $13 with Dark Eyes, Embley, Hopfgarten, Raw Impulse and Red Excitement.

Portelli has no regrets with his decision not to start promising filly Secret Lady at Rosehill last Saturday.

“If Gongs wasn’t in the race then Secret Lady would have been a moral,’’ he said.

“But I didn’t want to see Secret Lady and Gongs going head-to-head and having a really tough run.

“Secret Lady would have then needed to get over the run and be ready for the Magic Millions.

“She has put on 5kg since her win and that gives me something to burn off between now and the race to have her at peak fitness.

“Although she is a pretty tough little horse she is only a two-year-old and I need to keep that in mind.

“She will have her next run at Randwick on December 30 and then go into the Magic Millions.’’

Portelli said She Will Reign is “going enormous, looks fantastic” as she slowly builds towards an autumn sprint campaign.

“It’s still early days but I’m very happy with how she is coming up so far this preparation,’’ he said.

Ray Thomas - The Daily Telegraph - 12/12/2017