The addition of blinkers and a notable form reference over the course and distance has champion trainer David Hayes hopeful of a strong Australian Cup showing from import Ventura Storm.
A Group One winner in Italy, Ventura Storm is one of two runners for co-trainers David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig in Saturday’s $1.5 million Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington with fellow import Harlem out to bounce back from a last-start failure.
Ventura Storm is still chasing his first Australian win having had seven starts in Victoria since joining the Lindsay Park stable.
His best result so far was his second to champion Winx, beaten 6-1/2 lengths, in the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last spring.
He heads into Saturday’s weight-for-age feature second-up after working home into fourth in the Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield behind a trio of Australian Cup rivals headed by favourite Gailo Chop who beat him by just over seven lengths.
“I think Ventura Storm will run a really cheeky race,” David Hayes said.
“Early in his preparation (last spring) he ran second in the Turnbull, similar conditions, and split Humidor and the champion Winx. He was well-beaten, of course, by Winx but he did beat Humidor and he (Humidor) ran second in the Cox Plate.
“So I think he’ll run really well. He’s got blinkers on for the first time which is a little bit of a trick we’ve used over the years in the big Group Ones.”
The stable won the Australian Cup three years ago with another import Spillway edging out stablemate Extra Zero.
Hayes has also won the Australian Cup with Niconero (2009) and Better Loosen Up (1991).
Ventura Storm and Harlem were both at $31 on Friday with the Darren Weir-trained dual Group One winner Gailo Chop the $3.10 favourite after winning the Carlyon Cup (1600m) and Peter Young (1800m) in the lead-up.
Harlem was second to Gailo Chop in the Carlyon Cup in his return from a spell before finishing second last in the Peter Young.
“You have to forgive last start if you’re going to back him but he did run well behind the favourite first-up,” Hayes said.
“His blood (picture) is good, so we thought ‘why not’.”