Star West Australian Playing God has been heavily backed to win the Makybe Diva Stakes despite his trainer declaring him vulnerable second-up in the Flemington feature.
TAB Sportsbet has slashed the exciting four-year-old’s quote for Saturday’s 1600-metre Group Two weight-for-age event from $8.50 to $5.50 while he has also been well supported with other betting agencies around the country.
Last start Lawrence Stakes runner-up Lights of Heaven has eased from $1.60 to $1.65 but remains a dominant favourite ahead of Playing God and Glass Harmonium ($6).
Playing God has returned to Melbourne for a Cox Plate assault after a terrific autumn campaign which included thirds in both the Australian Guineas and Australian Cup.
He trained on to run second in the West Australian Derby in April and warmed up for the Makybe Diva with an eye-catching half-length second to Idyllic Prince at weight-for-age in the Listed Goodwood Sprint (1300m) at Belmont Park two weeks ago.
Trainer Neville Parnham said Playing God had furnished into a powerful gelding for the spring and is cautiously optimistic about a big run on Saturday.
“The way he has come up this campaign he is definitely in with a show on Saturday, but he is a bit vulnerable second-up over a mile and with all the travelling he’s done,” Parnham said.
Playing God has only finished out of the money twice in his 15 starts and was a Group One winner of the Kingston Town Classic (1800m) in Perth last December.
However it was his third to Shocking and Linton in this year’s Australian Cup that has Parnham really excited about the gelding in the spring.
“His autumn campaign was excellent and to run third, as a three-year-old, to a Melbourne Cup winner at weight-for-age in the Australian Cup was a great effort,” Parnham said.
“We think he has got better for that campaign and he is a bigger and stronger horse at 540kg so we’re pretty happy with him.”
“His first-up run was great and he has settled in well at Flemington and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Parnham’s son Steven will ride Playing God and the plan will be to have him running just off the pace to allow him to finish the race off strongly.
“He can race on the pace as well but is better when ridden behind the speed somewhere,” Parnham said.
Playing God is entered for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups but Parnham said the Cox Plate looked the right race for him.
“There are no So You Thinks standing out at the moment so it might be a good year for us to have a go,” Parnham said.
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