Skyward (Image: Racing Photos)
If you're looking at the Geelong Cup run of Skyward to make the argument for him not winning the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes, do so at your own peril, because if trainer Natalie Young has judged it right, we will see a different horse at Flemington.
The French import exited quarantine just days before the Geelong Cup and, according to Young, that had a profound impact on his run, where he was unable to muster anything at the top of the straight and finished 2.4 lengths fifth.
"It (quarantine) might have just been a little bit more taxing than we probably thought and he ran a bit like that," Young said.
Skyward has been freshened since that run and, while there is a potential $250,000 bonus in winning a weaker Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Young and co-trainer/husband Trent Busuttin opted instead to drop back to 2000m and tackle a strong Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes, worth $1.5 million.
The freshen-up and additional time in his new surrounds has the five-year-old bouncing around like a different horse.
"He has been cantering round on the course proper there at Cranbourne and working on the grass and he is just feeling fantastic and we weren't seeing that prior to the Geelong Cup," Young said.
"His bloods are perfect, he looks super in the coat, we have done a bit of beach work with him and he just loves the beach."
Glen Boss will replace William Pike for the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes on Skyward, with Pike having returned home to WA.
"He (Boss) is just a really big race-day rider and the sort of person you want to put the finishing touches on when you have done the work prior to getting them there," Young said of Boss.
"He is coming off a G1 win (The Metropolitan) where he beat Mugatoo and Mugatoo is nearly the favourite, which I don't understand," she said.
"He had a genuine excuse in the Caulfield Cup. He actually got knocked right when he was making his move and just didn't recover from it, so it was a bit of a forgive run."
The biggest issue for Young is the wide barrier (7 of 10), which will mean jockey Michael Dee will have serious work to do to put him in a winning position.
"He might get posted a bit wide and that'll be the question mark but the way he looks and the way he has come through that run, I can't fault him," he said.