It's not often that a trainer leaves a racecourse with a smile on their face after finishing out of the money but that was the case for Waverley's Bill Thurlow at Flemington on Saturday.
Thurlow was reflecting on the performance of his Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Glory Days, who demonstrated a good turn of foot under the steadier of 60.5kg as she stormed into fifth over 1700m to close out the programme at Melbourne's racing headquarters.
While expecting Glory Days to improve on her first-up performance in New Zealand, where she struggled when finishing at the rear over 1400m on a waterlogged surface at Otaki, Thurlow admitted he was looking for a confidence booster as he plots a course to the Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) for the bonny 7-year-old mare. "She went super and we are very pleased with that performance," he said.
"It was quite a strong field and she was giving up to 6kg to the ones who finished in front of her, so you have to be thrilled with a run like that.
"We were realistic about our winning chances before the race and I just wanted to see her get home well, so she really did live right up to expectations with the run."
Thurlow was also buoyed by the post-race comments of jockey Craig Williams who was suitably impressed by the mare.
"Craig was very taken by the finishing burst she put up as he had thought she might have struggled after going a little keenly early on," Thurlow said.
"She probably just battled that last 50m but he said the move she made to get into the finish from the 300m was very impressive. Hopefully he will want to stick with her for her next start as he did ask to be kept in the loop but he is in hot demand so you just never know."
Thurlow will assess how his charge comes through Saturday's run before making any firm plans for her, although he is weighing up two potential options.
"It will all depend on her recovery rate but our first option is the Benalla Cup [2046m] in two weeks," he said.
"If she takes a little longer then we will most likely go to the Bart Cummings [Group 3, 2500m] at Flemington a week later.
"She would carry a bit of weight in the Benalla Cup but it might be away from the top ones and is getting up to a more suitable distance."
Thurlow was also buoyed by comments from Racing Victoria's chief handicapper, Greg Carpenter, when discussing the prospects of Glory Days making the final field for the Melbourne Cup from her current position of 39th on the order of entry.
"Greg introduced himself to me on Saturday and we had a really good chat about the Cup," Thurlow said.
"He did mention that in a normal year she would be well placed to make the final field after defections but you just never know.
"We chatted after the race as well and he thought the mare had gone really well and would be keeping an eye on her over the next few starts."
Thurlow is heading back to his Waverley base where he will put the finishing touches on last season's Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) runner-up, Beyond The Fort, as she prepares to make her 4-year-old debut.
"Beyond The Fort is heading to the trials at Foxton on Tuesday and is pretty close to her first start for the season," he said. "She trialled up nicely at the start of the month and has come on well. Tuesday will bring her on again for her first run which is likely to be at Hawera in early October. A race like the Waverley Cup in November could be a nice target and a great race to win on our home patch."
- NZ Racing Desk