A wide barrier for Perfect Punch in Wednesday’s Geelong Classic has put the reality back into racing for Caulfield Cup-winning trainer Leon Macdonald.
The win of Southern Speed in Saturday’s Group One race was among the most satisfying of Macdonald’s career and came after everything went to plan, including barrier three.
For Victoria Derby aspirant Perfect Punch, his next step to Group One glory will be all the more difficult after coming up with gate 13 of 16 in the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m).
“It’s a terrible barrier, it’s a bit of a downer, that’s for sure,” Macdonald said.
“He’ll go forward from there so hopefully he can get into a decent position.
“We’ll do our best.”
Perfect Punch and the Gary Portelli-trained Eagle Command, who has barrier nine, were the $4.50 equal favourites in TAB Sportsbet’s first markets on Monday.
A Kyneton maiden winner last month, Eagle Command was an eye-catching second to Isopach in the Listed UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington on October 2 after striking early interference.
Perfect Punch has earned his way to Melbourne with three wins from his past three starts at home in Adelaide, including the Group Three Hill Smith Stakes (1800m) last Saturday week.
It is a similar, but so far more successful leadup, to the one Macdonald employed three years ago with Rebel Raider who ran third at Geelong before winning the Derby.
Rebel Raider went into the Derby at his ninth start while the 2500m feature on Saturday week will be number seven for Perfect Punch.
“He is still learning, he is very green but I believe he is a stayer in the making,” Macdonald said.
“The timing of the Geelong race worked well with Rebel Raider and fits in nicely.”
Perfect Punch and Eagle Command are both at $13 for the Victoria Derby with the Gai Waterhouse-trained Niagara ($5) deposing Manawanui ($5.50) as favourite.
Both are entered for Saturday’s Group Two Vase (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
Niagara was an unlucky third to Sabrage in Saturday’s Norman Robinson Stakes at Caulfield while Manawanui was a gallant second to Cox Plate favourite Helmet in the Caulfield Guineas at his most recent start.
Although Macdonald and the owners of Southern Speed opted to bypass Saturday’s Cox Plate with Southern Speed, he and training partner Andrew Gluyas still hope to have a runner.
Lalla Rookh is entered for the Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) but with several international Melbourne Cup aspirants including last year’s winner Americain in the race, she may not get a start.
Lalla Rookh is also still in the Melbourne Cup entries but the Long Black, generally considered the stayers’ consolation on the day, is her aim.
“The Long Black is her race,” Macdonald said.
“But if we can’t get into the Moonee Valley Cup we will have to hope we can get into the Bendigo Cup the following Wednesday just to get into the Long Black.”