Cherry Tortoni (Image: Racing Photos)
Saturday week's Exford Plate (1400m) at Flemington looms as a fork in the road to the likely spring path for Patrick Payne's undefeated youngster Cherry Tortoni.
The son of Night Of Thunder won a Kerang jumpout on Monday and his trainer, who was in the saddle, said he was pleased with how he's returned to training after a short break following a breakout winter campaign that culminated with victory in the Listed Taj Rossi Series Final (1600m) at Flemington.
While Cherry Tortoni is prominent in all-in markets for both the Caulfield Guineas and the AAMI Victoria Derby, Payne said he would only chase a Group 1 scalp if the gelding's early spring form warranted it.
"He quickened up really well and stargazed when he got to the front like he normally does so I'd say he was pretty much in range," Payne said of Monday's hit-out.
"That was his second trial - he had one at Tatura about 14 days ago - so he's ready now and we're planning on running him in the Exford Plate over 1400m.
"It'll be the easy option or the hard option after that, we'll work it out from there.
"I've always been inclined to aim a little lower and take the easier option but we'll see if he puts his hand up."
Payne reported that another of the stable's spring aspirants, Rubisaki, had recovered well from a below-par first-up run in Saturday's Cockram Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.
"She seems fine," he said.
"She was pretty disappointing, all I can think is that maybe going from soft ground to firm ground, it was a bit of a shock to her system and she didn't let down."