The lure of a start in the $5 million All-Star Mile has prompted Kris Lees to enter unchartered waters in his choice of campaign starting points for Mugatoo.
One of the rising stars of Australia’s middle-distance ranks, Mugatoo will resume against a slick field in the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
Saturday’s race will be the first time the six-year-old has competed over a sprint distance as Lees looks to keep him fresh for the 1600 metres of next month’s All-Star Mile.
“That’s why we are running him on Saturday, otherwise I would have waited for something like the Chipping Norton,” Lees said.
“But I just thought a 1400 metre race with one trial, it will be a bit like a second trial and that will give us four weeks until the All-Star Mile.
“Hopefully he is forward enough but still fresh enough to sprint well.”
A European import for syndicators Australian Bloodstock, Mugatoo has come a long way in a short time.
While he showed promise from the outset, his highlight last autumn was a Canberra Cup win before he rose to a new level in the spring.
Successive victories in Cup races were followed by a brave second in the Metropolitan and he turned in arguably his career-best performance when fourth in Sir Dragonet’s Cox Plate.
“He made good progress from one prep to the next,” Lees said.
“I doubt he is going to make that same leap of progress but if he can maintain where he was last preparation it will hold him in good stead.
“All indications are that he is going as well. We will know for sure on race day but he’s certainly in a good space.”
Regular rider Kerrin McEvoy will partner Mugatoo, who has the outside gate in the field of 10.
Connections are keen to see him sprint well fresh against high quality opposition the calibre of Verry Elleegant, Funstar, Colette and Dreamforce, mindful he needs to wow the All-Star Mile voters.
“He is just out of the voting at the moment and he will need to run well over 1400 to be any chance to go there,” Lees said.
Stablemate Never Talk will take on a crack field of fillies in the Light Fingers Stakes when she steps up to black-type grade for the first time.
The filly was doing her best work late for a last-start fifth to Lillemor, although Lees would like to see some rain to aid her chances.
“Four weeks between runs is ideal for her. She needs a bit of rain to bring her into contention against the better quality fillies but she is doing well,” Lees said.