For all the accolades First Seal earned in a comeback win, trainer John Thompson concedes the Canterbury Stakes will present an even greater challenge.
Because of an injury-interrupted season, First Seal will be making a belated weight-for-age debut against all comers in the Group One sprint at Randwick.
And if there was relief attached to her successful return in the Millie Fox Stakes, Thompson knows First Seal has to be better to match proven international campaigner Criterion, the fleet-footed Our Boy Malachi and Doncaster Mile winner Kermadec on Saturday.
“There’s no doubt she has to go to another level, no doubt about that all,” Thompson said.
Thompson is a young trainer with an old-school approach after learning his trade under Bart Cummings and he is wary about a long-established racing theory counting against First Seal.
Horses having their second start after an extended break from racing can sometimes turn in inexplicable runs after winning at their return.
But Thompson says there is nothing on the training track to suggest First Seal has done anything but thrive.
“Her gallops on Saturday and Tuesday morning were both very good and all things point to an improved run,” he said.
“She’s come on but you always worry about a second-up syndrome after having 10 months between runs. Coming back and running so well first-up, it might just take the edge off.
“They put so much into their first-up run, it takes more out of them because they’re not race fit.
“First-up they can win because they’re fresh and they sprint well fresh.”
Seven horses have been accepted for the Canterbury Stakes and with barrier three First Seal has drawn inside her obvious danger, Our Boy Malachi, who has gate six.
Our Boy Malachi hasn’t been seen since winning the Expressway Stakes a month ago, but he was kept up to peak fitness in a Rosehill barrier trial on Monday.
Sitting deep in a midfield position, Our Boy Malachi was never let off the bridle when allowed to brush home late in the 900m heat to finish just behind the placegetters.
Criterion will set out on the same autumn path that delivered a Queen Elizabeth Stakes win last year when he resumes with Kerrin McEvoy riding for the first time.
The Canterbury Stakes will be the supporting Group One race to the $1 million Randwick Guineas in which the warm favourite Press Statement has drawn one stall from the outside in a field of 13.