Chris Waller has made a habit of unearthing promising horses late in the two-year-old season and he looks to have found another one in Saffiano.
Having his second start, the $600,000 Magic Millions purchase overcame a muddling tempo and tight passage early in the straight to sprint clear and score an impressive win the Clarendon Stakes (1400m).
The race, usually held at Hawkesbury but moved to Rosehill to comply with racing’s coronvirus restrictions, has produced some handy winners, including the Waller-trained Zoustar.
Zoustar went on to run second in the 2013 JJ Atkins Stakes (1600m) in Brisbane, a race reduced to 1400m this year but one of the few to have survived the carnival cuts in Queensland.
Waller has won the Atkins three times, most recently with The Autumn Sun two years ago, and confirmed Saffiano would get his chance in the Group One race.
“There are two reasons you look up to Brisbane, obviously prize money is one thing and the status of a Group One JJ Atkins,” Waller said.
“Also timing though, getting them up into the warmer climate seems to be a good springboard for a three-year-old, so I’d say we’d follow a similar path.”
Waller has a good opinion of Saffiano and says the youngster is still raw and learning his craft.
He has taken a typically patient approach with the Aquis Farm colt and expects to reap the rewards.
“He is a promising horse this one. We’ve taken our time with him,” Waller said.
“Even today he was a little bit wobbly up the straight. He had to be good to pick up the last 100-metres and once he did get in the clear he quickened really well.”
James McDonald was equally effusive and has no doubt Saffiano is an ideal type to target an Atkins.
“He could be a real J Atkins horse and obviously Chris unearths his nicer two-year-olds now and he is a nice one to unearth,” McDonald said.
Saffiano ($5) surged late to beat Formentera ($3.80) by a head with the favourite Rock My Wand ($3.30) another 1-1/2 lengths away.
The JJ Atkins is at Eagle Farm on June 6.