Surprised an examination of his horse’s spring bona fides has arrived earlier than planned, Todd Willan will learn more about the long-term prospects of Artlee on Saturday.
While Artlee has earned almost $400,000, he has yet to be given a proper class test.
And until that comes, Willan says he will reserve judgment on his stable star’s future.
“We are at a crossroads now to see whether he will step up and stick his nose out and step up to those higher-grade horses,” Willan said.
Artlee made an impressive run through the classes during an autumn campaign that netted a win in the $300,000 Country Championship Final at Randwick and a Listed success during the Scone Cup carnival.
Willan said he was caught off guard at the depth of the entries for the City Tattersall’s Club Lightning, an 1100m Listed race at Randwick.
“It’s a giant leap. In all honesty I didn’t think the field was going to be as strong as it was,” Willan said.
“I thought a few of them might have already been in Melbourne.”
Lightning entries include Group One winner Tiger Tees and Fell Swoop, the Canberra-trained sprinter chasing his ninth win from 11 starts.
Their presence has forced Willan to lower first-up expectations.
“It’s going to be a fair bit too short for him on Saturday,” he said.
“And they’ll probably run him off his legs early but if he is finding the line I’ll be very happy with him.”
Willan, whose Hunter Valley stable has grown on the back of Artlee’s success, has made tentative Melbourne Cup carnival plans should the gelding acquit himself well enough at Randwick.
“There’s a few options,” he said. We’ve got Derby day and Melbourne Cup day at Flemington and a race at Hawkesbury all in mind.”
The Lightning is one of four stakes race at Randwick.