Trainer Shane Nichols is in a confident frame of mind as he heads towards the Group One Orr Stakes with stable star Streets Of Avalon.
Nichols wasn’t certain his six-year-old warrior was back to his best in the lead up to his resumption in last month’s Group Two Australia Stakes but Streets Of Avalon convinced him otherwise with his comfortable on-speed victory.
“I was having some doubts about whether he could produce what he did due to having some wear and tear issues but he was great,” Nichols said.
“He’s in a good place. I think he’s two to three lengths better than when he won the Australia Stakes.”
Nichols said the horse’s Australia Stakes win was a confidence booster as he prepared Streets Of Avalon for a tough second-up assignment in Melbourne’s first Group One race of the year.
The trainer believes that if the track at Caulfield is a good three or better on Saturday, Streets Of Avalon will be the horse to beat despite facing a quality field of rivals headed by Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet and three-year-old Crosshaven.
At the forefront of Nichols’ mind is Streets Of Avalon’s performance in last year’s Futurity Stakes, also over 1400 metres at Caulfield, when he clocked 1:21.90.
“He can run a sub 1 minute 22 (seconds) for the 1400 metres. I’m not sure whether Sir Dragonet can do that first up after running in a Melbourne Cup,” Nichols said.
“The three-year-olds also have to show they can step up to the mark.”
Nichols said Streets Of Avalon was plagued by bad barriers and wet tracks last spring and was also taken out of his comfort zone in a couple of 1600 metre races.
Although rain is forecast on Friday, Nichols believes Caulfield’s amazing ability to dry out quickly will come to the fore.
“It’s the firmest track in Melbourne. It’s like a road as the rain sits on the surface,” he said.
“Also with the weather forecast, they aren’t likely to put water on the track.”
Streets Of Avalon’s victory in the Australia Stakes was the ninth of his career and took his earnings to just under $1.4 million.
Nichols said the gelding would not be overtaxed this autumn but would be given the chance to defend his Futurity Stakes title.
“I’m not looking at a big campaign. He might (also) run in the William Reid Stakes at The Valley but that will be it,” Nichols said.
A field of 10 was paid up for the Orr on Wednesday with Sir Dragonet an early $3 favourite while Streets Of Avalon was rated a $7.50 chance.