Poland (Image: Racing Photos)
Poland may not be Phar Lap yet - or most likely ever - but trainer Michael Moroney believes his distant relation to the equine legend has improved sufficiently to challenge for Group 1 honours at Flemington on Saturday.
Moroney intends to accept with Poland for the $1 million G1 Kennedy Australian Guineas (1600m). Poland's ninth dam, Fortune's Wheel, was the older sister of Phar Lap and was the first foal of Phar Lap's dam Entreaty.
Phar Lap won 13 races as a three-year-old and Poland will contest the Kennedy Australian Guineas after winning his second race for the season, a first-up victory in the $200,000 G2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 6 by a length.
"I'm pleased with the improvement he's made from the spring to the autumn, I think he's improved a lot, which he needs to be up to these (in the Kennedy Australian Guineas) but I think he has," Moroney said.
"He's always had it (ability) there, pretty immature mentally and physically in the spring, but I think he's really turned the corner.
"It's pretty similar to what happened with Alabama Express last season as well, and I'm sure he's well up to these sorts of horses," Moroney added, referencing former stablemate Alabama Express, who won the G1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) as a three-year-old colt last season.
Craig Williams rode Poland for the first time in trackwork at Flemington on Tuesday morning ahead of their planned reunion in the Kennedy Australian Guineas.
Williams, who has won the Australian Guineas twice with Miss Finland (2007) and Shamus Award (2014), has replaced the injured Jordan Childs, who has partnered the So You Think colt in all five previous starts.
"I thought I would give him (Craig) the ride as he's going to ride him in the Guineas and it was his most serious piece of work, so I allowed Craig to have a feel of him because he's never been on him before," Moroney said.
"Not that I do it a lot, but I feel he's the sort of horse you need to get to know. Jordan (Childs) has ridden a lot of his work."