A winter campaign in Queensland has been worth more than a Brisbane Cup success for Chocante as the New Zealand gelding prepares for his Sydney debut in the Group Two Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick.
Trainer Stephen Marsh believes the five-year-old has matured significantly since his first trans-Tasman excursion in May culminated in Group Two success at Doomben on June 10.
But he is under no illusions about the task ahead on Saturday when Chocante races against Winx.
“I think the trip’s made him. He’s more mature mentally. Physically he looks better. He’s turned from a boy to a man I guess,” Marsh said.
“He was a bit of a sook. He was always needing company, now he’s a bit of a stand-alone.”
Chocante is one of 11 rivals for Winx in the 1600m-feature.
“It’s a big step up. We can’t hide the fact it wasn’t the strongest of Brisbane Cup fields,” Marsh said.
“Where he finishes doesn’t worry me too much. I just want to see him hitting the line doing his best work and looking a bit of an eye-catcher late.
“We’re not in dream world thinking we’re going to pounce over the top of Winx.”
“That looks like a perfect race for him,” he said.
“That’ll be the crossroads for us, whether we head to Melbourne or not.
“It’s the first horse I’ve never nominated for the Melbourne Cup. It’s exciting but we won’t go if we’re just making up the numbers.”
If Chocante was not up to Melbourne Cup class he could have a crack at the St Leger (2600m) at Randwick on October 14 before returning home.
Winx dominates the Chelmsford market at $1.06 with every other runner in double figures.
Doomben Cup winner Sense Of Occasion is the second pick at $17 with Chocante at $41.