For two years Gerald Ryan has had the 2011 spring carnival in his sights with Ironstein.
The six-year-old son of Zabeel takes his final step towards the Group One Metropolitan in the Colin Stephen Handicap (2400m) at Rosehill on Saturday and Ryan is confident the gelding is on track for his spring objectives, which could include an assault on the major Cups in Melbourne.
“The whole plan from when we got him as a four-year-old and when he started to show promise was to aim at this spring with him,” Ryan said.
“He had a long campaign last time and he came out of it well. He’s a very routine horse and if you stick to a routine he does very well.
“When he used to walk into the mounting yard you could see the difference in the older, seasoned horses and it wasn’t until this preparation that he’s got there.”
Ironstein was a luckless fifth in the Group Three Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) last start and gets the chance to atone on Saturday in a traditional lead-up to the Metropolitan.
“He travelled well back in the field last start and then when he went to go forward he ran into a few dead-ends and a few runs closed on him,” Ryan said.
“I thought if he had clear running from the 500 metres he probably would have won and even if he didn’t get stopped at the 200 he probably would have ran third.”
Ironstein has won twice at 2400m, in the Listed McKell Cup at Rosehill in May and the Caloundra Cup last year.
“He’s no star but he’s a very honest horse who has won over half a million dollars in prize money,” Ryan said.
“He came to us with no form and no reputation but he’s done really well.”
The Rosehill trainer is also bullish about the chances of both Fast Shanti and Swerte Bella in the Listed Reginald Allen Handicap (1400m).
“I think they are both chances, both are fillies still on the way up,” he said.
“I certainly reckon they have the ability to win a race like this because it’s a disappointing field in my mind.”
Fast Shanti, a full-sister to Group winner Rothesay who was also trained by Ryan, is chasing her first win at her third start.
The filly was touted as a Golden Slipper prospect in the autumn but shin-soreness put paid to her campaign before she even raced.
“I was a bit worried early in the spring but I think now she’s right back on track,” Ryan said.
“Since the tracks have dried out she’s turned the corner, her coat has turned and she is doing a lot better.”
Swerte Bella resumed with a seventh against older horses in a midweek event at Canterbury but Ryan said her last 400m was pleasing.
“She’s in this race up to her ears,” he said.