A relieved Gary Portelli can now plan the next stage of Rebel Dane’s career following the six-year-old’s return to the winners’ list in the Group Two Shorts at Randwick.
Two years ago Rebel Dane asserted himself as Portelli’s stable star with victory in the Group One Rupert Clarke Stakes.
Until Saturday he had not won another race and The Shorts (1100m) was his first test since undergoing throat surgery.
“My legs are like jelly,” Portelli said.
“He had a tie-back operation and until they are under race pressure you don’t know how they will go.
“I would have been disappointed if he had been beaten. He was the only Group One horse in the race and he needed to beat these horses to take the next step up.”
Because of the wet track, the field was reduced to six with three scratchings including Group One winner Terravista.
In his absence Shiraz was the $2.50 favourite ahead of Ball Of Muscle at $4.50 with Rebel Dane a $7 chance.
Ball Of Muscle led but with Brenton Avdulla urging Rebel Dane all the way down the straight, he wore away at his rival to win by a half head with three-quarters of a length to Shiraz.
The Premiere Stakes (1200m) in two weeks is the next step for Rebel Dane who then heads to the Group One Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Despite his two-year absence from the winners’ list, Rebel Dane had performed at the highest level including his second in the 2014 TJ Smith Stakes won by Lankan Rupee.
He also ran fourth behind the star sprinter in last year’s rough-house Manikato Stakes.
But after his second run in the autumn, Blake Shinn got off and told Portelli the horse was struggling to breathe, prompting the operation.
The time off has also helped Rebel Dane develop and he now carries 500kg on his light frame.
Ball Of Muscle’s trainer Joe Pride was proud of the sprinter who now heads to the Group One Moir Stakes.
“He’s never missed a place, he’s a good, honest horse,” Pride said.
“He will go to the Moir now in two weeks.”