West Australian trainer Neville Parnham is at a loss to explain the last-start failure from Malibu Style and is hoping to see him bounce back in his defence of the All Victorian Sprint Series Final at Flemington.
Saturday’s Listed 1200m sprint is also likely to prove telling in whether the rising nine-year-old continues campaigning in Melbourne where he has done the majority of his racing over the past three years or heads back to Perth to continue his career.
A winner of a tick over $1 million in prize money from 67 starts to date with 11 wins and another 21 placings, Malibu Style heads into Saturday off a below-par performance when he led and faded to finish last of 11 runners over 1100m at Flemington two weeks ago.
He is chasing his first win since last year’s All Victorian Sprint Series Final but since then has notched eight top-four finishes from 12 starts, including a fourth in the Listed Straight Six (1200m) two starts ago at Flemington when Parnham believes he was unlucky not to be right in the finish.
“The horse in himself is going very, very well,” Parnham said.
“I can’t explain his last run. We haven’t seen anything out of him that has given us reason for the failure. It was most uncharacteristic for the horse because he’s such a consistent animal.”
Parnham believes Malibu Style was not entirely suited to leading last start and also said he had “a bit of a black eye” the next morning but is not sure how that occurred or whether that would have been an excuse.
He believes if Malibu Style runs up to his three runs before last start, and up to his work leading into Saturday, it would make him highly competitive.
“He certainly can win and his work on Tuesday would indicate he’s certainly in good form,” he said.
“I think most of these horses are around his sort of mark and it’s a matter of which one gets the right run.”
The trainer, and part-owner, said he was also realistic Malibu Style was rising nine years old and said they would make a decision after Saturday but it was likely he could head home to Perth to continue his career.
“It just depends on how he goes and I’m leaving it a bit open at the moment,” he said.
“There is a few more races that he certainly could be competitive in (in Victoria) but he needs to find that form that he’s had and I guess his last start put a bit of a dampener on things, and making me think maybe I should bring him back home.
“There are some suitable races for him here (in Perth) as well but we’ll get through tomorrow and make a decision.”