Nigel Blackiston hopes St Leger Stakes winner Right Of Refusal can help fill the gaping hole left in his stable with the retirement of his headline act Littorio.
Right Of Refusal is entered for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and is among 23 entries for Saturday’s Group One Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield.
He is also nominated for Saturday’s Group Three Naturalism Stakes (2000m) but with 31 entries for that event Blackiston is leaning towards targeting the harder race with the four-year-old.
“I think he will run well on Saturday but he is a promising stayer better suited over more distance,” Blackiston said.
“He showed that last campaign when he won the St Leger.”
He said either the Geelong Cup or the Moonee Valley Cup was a more realistic goal for him this campaign with the hope that he could run well enough in one of those races to warrant a run in the Melbourne Cup.
“We are heading in that (Melbourne Cup) direction but we are taking baby steps,” Blackiston said.
“If he gets there all well and good but he might measure up better next year.
“He is still quite babyish and immature but he’s heading in the right direction.”
Blackiston said Littorio, who was diagnosed with tendonitis over the weekend after a stunning comeback from injury to win in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington nine days ago, would be hard to replace but Right Of Refusal was part of a bigger plan of laying a foundation for the future.
“He is travelling along very nicely and we also have a few others in the stable coming through,” Blackiston said..
Among them is Zabeel four-year-old Menados who won his only start easily at Echuca and will line up at Seymour over 1600 metres on Thursday.
The Underwood Stakes Day will bring clarity to the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup markets.
The horses who occupy the top seven positions in TAB Sportsbet’s Melbourne Cup market and the top six in Caulfield Cup betting have been nominated in either the Underwood or Naturalism.
Among the Underwood entries are $12 Melbourne Cup favourite Shamrocker, Kiwi stars Scarlett Lady ($14) and Lion Tamer ($15), last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday ($15) and classy mares Lights Of Heaven ($18) and Absolutely ($18).
The $13 second favourite for the Melbourne Cup and $8 Caulfield Cup favourite, December Draw, is entered for the Naturalism which guarantees the winner a start in the Caulfield Cup.