Startsmeup will run first up in the Warwick Stakes this Saturday with a potential spot in the 2011 Epsom Handicap on the line.
Trainer Bruce Hill rates him as a genuine Group 1 horse but he’s not 100 percent sure just how fast he’ll get there or which race is best suited for him.
The horse will leave from Hill’s Gold Coast stables tomorrow night on the path for Sydney where he’ll face off with a very tough field of horses this Saturday.
In fact the 1400m weight for age contest still has 20 nominations, many of which already have Group 1 experience, a couple of them having claimed top level titles as recently as last season.
While on the surface that may appear a bad thing due to the high level of competition, the fact is if Startsmeup runs well it will add further support to his ambitions of running in an Epsom Handicap.
There’s plenty on the line for jockey Paul Hammersley as well, not only is he looking for a Group 2 win, he’s also looking to book his own spot in the Epsom Handicap field, all of this for Hill who is actually his father in-law.
Startsmeup has originally been sent specifically for a Sydney spring campaign but a mix of weather conditions and performance could see him extend south to Melbourne.
The Group 1 Toorak Handicap is one option over the 1600m, but a win on Saturday would lift their sights even higher.
“I’m not sure how many runs he’ll have in Sydney and I’ll wait and see how he goes in the Warwick Stakes first,” Hill said.
“If he happened to win then we’d have to look at the Epsom Handicap with him.”
The four year old gelding is one member of Hill’s spring team which also includes the Grafton Cup winner Warrior Within.
He backed up his win in Grafton with a tough second placing to Fantastic Blue last start at Doomben on August 6.
He is on a regional cup’s crusade which will include the Wyong Gold Cup on September 1st as well as the Group 3 Newcastle Cup on September 14.
After that he’ll head even further south for a tour of the provincials in Victoria.
“I gave Warrior Within an easy week after his last run as he’s had a few tough runs,” Hill said.
“He’ll probably go to Sydney next week and he could run in the Wyong Cup before the Newcastle Cup.”
In terms of Group 1 success though, specifically the Epsom Handicap, it all comes down to Startsmeup and how well he returns from a spell.
His one start at the top level last season was in the Australian Guineas where he could only manage 10th, six lengths off the winner Shamrocker.
Previous to that he had come extremely close to an upset Group 3 CS Hayes win when narrowly edged out by Bullbars.
Hill says he’s in great shape returning for the spring and he’s cautiously optimistic about what the new season my bring.
“He’s brilliant and has trained on well since his last win,” Hill said.
“His work is the best it’s been for a long time. He was always very immature but he’s older and stronger now and is eating well.”
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