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'Flemington specialist' still capable around a bend according to trainer ahead of Good Friday feature

Robbie Griffiths would probably prefer Halvorsen got a crack at a race like The Country Discovery (1100m) at Flemington, but he is not deterred with having to travel to Sale.

The Cranbourne trainer’s best sprinter will log back-to-back starts away from Flemington for the first time since early in his career when he contests a hot inaugural edition of the $500,000 event.

It follows a last-start second placing in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley, which Griffiths thinks was a good reminder of his capabilities away from the straight course.

“His Flemington specialist tag is probably a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy because we target that track all the time,” Griffiths, who trains in partnership with Mathew de Kock, said.

“It’s easier for management and it’s easier for his style, but at the end of the day, prior to Moonee Valley he’d had one start for one win there and now he’s one from two with a second at the highest level of racing.

“He’s won at Caulfield, he won the (VOBIS) Gold race at Caulfield and his record there is very, very good, and he’s only ever had one run at Sandown and he ran third.

“He’s actually pretty much an allrounder it’s just that we tend to tick to Flemington because it gives him more opportunities to avoid traffic with his style of racing.”

Halvorsen had his first 11 starts, which generated four wins and four placings, away from Flemington but then had 17 of his next 18 starts at that track, the highlights being wins in the Group 3 Standish Handicap in 2020 and earlier this year.

After this year’s Standish the six-year-old contested the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap, in which he finished 10th when caught on the wrong side of the track, and Griffiths said the second to September Run in the William Reid was vindication that he was going as well as they thought he was.

“We were confident going into it that he could run top three because we thought that his form going into the Newmarket would give us a really good performance in that race,” Griffiths said.

“We were just a bit shocked that the outside was so much slower than the inside and we took a lot of heart that the horse that he beat in the Standish (The Astrologist) ran second on the inside.”

Halvorsen, who will be ridden by Andrew Mallyon, has drawn barrier six of 15 in The Country Discovery with Group 1 winner Savatoxl, Group 2 McEwen Stakes winner The Inferno, classy mare Brooklyn Hustle, former Western Australian winning machine Showmanship, Lombardo and In The Boat among the others engaged.

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