An ideal barrier draw has confirmed an Australia Stakes return for defending champion Mourinho.
Trainer Peter Gelagotis was weighing up his options for the gelding’s resumption, including waiting for the Group One CF Orr Stakes if Mourinho didn’t draw well for Saturday’s weight-for-age contest.
But after the Group One Underwood Stakes winner came up with barrier two, Gelagotis confirmed Mourinho was on target to resume at Moonee Valley.
“He’s coming along beautifully and the draw has put a smile on everybodys face,” Gelagotis said.
“I think it was imperative that we drew a good gate and we’ve done that so it’s pleasing.
“That way there’s no excuses for him not to race and get every possible chance in the run.”
Mourinho is one of four Group One winners among the 13 acceptors along with Rebel Dane, Trust In A Gust and Hucklebuck who will also be first-up.
Mourinho is set to follow the same summer and autumn program in Melbourne as he did a year ago with the CF Orr Stakes, Peter Young Stakes (1800m) and probably the Australian Cup (2000m) on the radar.
Gelagotis believes the depth in Saturday’s Australia Stakes field is much stronger than last year, with more specialist sprinters engaged.
“It’s going to be interesting,” the trainer said.
“I believe we’ve got stiff opposition but he’s fresh and well, he’s got a great draw and he loves the track.”
He said he would be disappointed if Mourinho wasn’t strong to the line.
“I wouldn’t expect him to be fading from that barrier draw,” he said.
“He should be able to get a kind run and if he can keep his momentum up he should be in the thick of things.”
Sydney sprinter Rebel Dane is the $3.40 favourite to make a winning return at a track where he has been close to big-race success several times.
His five starts at Moonee Valley have included a third in the 2014 Group One Moir Stakes, fourth in the 2014 Manikato Stakes and a third in the Manikato last spring.
Standish Handicap winner Durendal will try to continue his winning run this summer while two three-year-old colts, Holler and Rageese, are set to take on the older horses.