Consistent stayer Ironstein will finally get the chance to compete over 3200 metres this spring when he lines up in the Sandown Cup on Saturday.
After missing out on a Melbourne Cup start for the second year in a row, Ironstein went to Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) to defend his title in the Group Three race.
His bid was thwarted in spectacular fashion by former French horse Puissance de Lune, who beat him by five lengths with Ironstein 2-1/2 lengths in front of third placed Tanby.
The winner is now being proclaimed as the 2013 Melbourne Cup favourite with Glen Boss anointing him as one of the best he has ridden.
Trainer Gerald Ryan acknowledged the winner as simply too good but said Ironstein had come through the Queen Elizabeth in great order and there were no concerns about the seven-day back-up.
“I think he is racing in the best form of his career,” Ryan said.
“Brenton (Avdulla) rode him a treat yesterday and gave him every possible chance.
“He ran a great race but ran into a freak, a horse who could be a superstar.
“He pulled up well from the Queen Elizabeth. He ate up and he’s as bright as ever.
“The extra distance should suit him and he will go to Sandown as the fittest horse in the race.”
Ironstein has had six starts this campaign, including unlucky thirds in the JRA Cup and the Moonee Valley Cup, and a win at Sandown would tip him over the $1 million prizemoney mark.
By champion sire of stayers Zabeel, Ironstein is owned by a syndicate which includes his breeder John Singleton who raced his mother Gentle Genius.
With Avdulla suspended on Saturday, Ryan will use Kerrin McEvoy if he is available while Hugh Bowman will ride Ironstein’s stablemate Hot Snitzel in the Listed Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1300m).
“Kerrin could be committed to one of Mike Moroney’s who will be entered for the Cup and the Classic,” Ryan said.
“I’m happy to wait.”
Hot Snitzel goes into his assignment off a close fourth in a 1200m Listed race at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day last week.
“He had to carry 59-1/2 kilograms in that race so hopefully this will be easier,” Ryan said.
“Angel Of Mercy will also run at Sandown in the Summoned Stakes with Craig Williams to ride.”
Angel Of Mercy also ran fourth in a stakes race at Flemington on Cup day.