Racing: Xtravagant has tough Guineas rivals

By Mike Dillon

Xtravagant is almost certain to be attacked in his pacemaking role today. Photo / Trish Dunell
Xtravagant is almost certain to be attacked in his pacemaking role today. Photo / Trish Dunell

Millions of dollars is the answer to what a win for Xtravagant in today's A$750,000 Australian Guineas would mean.

How many millions depends on who would eventually buy the glamour colt for stud duties, but John Key would like the opportunity to take the amount off the national debt.

However, nothing is easy at this level in thoroughbred racing.

This will be a tactical race - Xtravagant is a brilliant beginner who can run along freely in front, but he is almost certain to be attacked in his pacemaking role.

Champion trainer Darren Weir has three runners, Palentino, Mahuta and Perfect Reflection. Mahuta is also a natural front runner and is certain to be sent forward to attack Xtravagant, perhaps setting it up for the stablemates.

A fierce duel in front would suit stablemate Palentino, whose chances diminished slightly when he drew barrier No 16, in direct opposition to Xtravagant, who will come out of a picture perfect No 3.

A fast race would also suit Tarzino, a stayer who showed ample stamina to win the A$1.5 million Victoria Derby. Against that, taking Xtravagant on in front may prove counter-productive if he fails to overrace. When Matt Cameron kept Xtravagant hard against the rail early in the group one sprint at Te Rapa with horses half a length or so in front and wider on the track the colt relaxed beautifully.

If Mahuta is determined to lead, Cameron may be happy to take a trail and if he settles as well as at Te Rapa it could be a perfect scenario. Co-trainer Stephen Autridge told the Herald from Melbourne yesterday Xtravagant had settled into his new surroundings satisfactorily despite travels plans being delayed more than 24 hours. "He ate three-quarters of his feed last night, he ate all his hay and he drank plenty of water.

"He made a noise for half an hour in his new box after which he'd made up with mates. He had a trot and canter this morning and looks terrific." Xtravagant was at $2.90 late yesterday with the TAB.

The opposition: $7.50 1731-4 Tarzino (Rider Craig Newitt): Fine stayer who won the 2500m Victoria Derby in the spring. Has had only the one 1400m run this preparation to keep him sharp for this. Will try to run at them hard late.

$8.50 11-72 Palentino (Mark Zahra): The most fancied of champion trainer Darren Weir's three runners, but drawn badly at No 16. Not out of it, but will need luck.

$8 111-3 Perfect Reflection (Ben Melham): Classy former West Australian star filly now with Darren Weir. This by far her toughest test yet, but has plenty of class.

$9 11111 Mahuta (Nash Rawiller): The third Weir runner. Has won his races dictating the pace and his chance was thought to be diminished with another front runner in Xtravagant engaged. Will make it interesting for a long way.

- NZ Herald

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