A mare on the brink of banishment is back in the good books with trainer Matt Dunn as a born-again stayer.
Devine Grey lines up as one of the leading contenders in the Hellbent First Crop at Inglis Classic Handicap (2212m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, a far cry from where her career was headed last winter.
After finishing last in a benchmark 58 race at Ballina in July, Devine Grey’s lacklustre form continued until Dunn stepped her up to a mile at Grafton in early November.
The four-year-old came from second last to cruise to a 2-1/2 length win and has not finished further back than second in five subsequent starts in longer races.
“At the start of this prep she was borderline looking for a new home, her first couple of runs were pretty disappointing,” Dunn said.
“We started trying her over further which wasn’t the original plan that we had in place at the start of her prep.
“She’s deep into her campaign and still racing well, she’s still holding weight and doing all the things that proper stayers do.”
Dunn believes Devine Grey is still learning her craft as a stayer and improving as she gains more experience in middle-distance assignments.
“She’s learning to settle better which is important,” he said.
“She’s a proper stayer who actually quickens at the end of long races.”
Devine Grey is tackling city Saturday grade for the first time but Dunn is confident she can rise to the challenge.
“Saturday is probably our biggest test, although if you take out a couple of runners there’s not a whole lot of depth there,” he said.
“The topweight’s on 60 kilos and the rest are on the limit which speaks for itself.”
Dunn will stress to jockey Steph Thornton not to hit the panic button if Devine Grey repeats her habit of missing the start.
“If you give her a reason she will want to get a bit keen mid-race when they slow up and we’ve learned to just let her go through her gears and catch the field up,” he said.