Pakenham Cup hopeful Grey Lion is deep into his preparation but his trainer Matt Cumani believes the stayer is getting better with racing.
The imported Grey Lion is yet to win in Australia since his arrival last spring, but the six-year-old has been thereabouts lately with three placings and a fourth in his past four races.
Cumani is pressing ahead to Saturday’s Listed $250,000 Pakenham Cup (2500m) after Grey Lion’s third on a heavy track in the $300,000 Ballarat Cup (2200m) last Saturday week.
“He seems to really enjoy racing and I think that’s what I’ve learned from last preparation,” Cumani said.
“We never quite got him ready enough because we weren’t racing him enough and he hadn’t had enough runs by the time we sent him out.”
The Pakenham Cup will be Grey Lion’s eighth start this campaign and Cumani says he has come through the Ballarat run in fantastic order.
“I think he’s better than ever, to be honest,” he said.
“Obviously we’re going in with only two weeks between his last run and this run.
“We might be getting to a point in which he will need a little bit of a break but I think he’s in great shape at the moment, so why not try to sneak a Pakenham Cup.
“All being well, I think he should be able to put in a really good effort there.”
De Little Engine, a closing fourth in the Ballarat Cup, has top weight of 60kg with Grey Lion next on 59kg.
Ballarat Cup runner-up Oncidium Ruler (56.5kg) is also among the 16 nominations.
Cumani felt Grey Lion performed well at Ballarat but said it was an interesting run because he made ground quickly once Jordan Childs asked him to improve before the home turn from midfield.
He said that was unlike previous starts when Grey Lion took a while to wind up which was why Childs got going early.
“It didn’t work there because I think with the strong early pace and the heavy ground, he took off,” Cumani said.
“He seemed to really respond to the rider and in hindsight we probably went a bit too early.
“We’ll probably revert to our original plan at Pakenham and get him out near the front and get him rolling along.”