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South Australian trainer Ryan Balfour is under no illusions about the task confronting Balf’s Choice in the inaugural All-Star Mile at Flemington.
But he remains optimistic the top vote getter in the public poll for the $5 million race will acquit himself well when he runs on Saturday.
It will be four weeks since Balf’s Choice last raced, finishing seventh over 2040m on February 16, a week after running third over Saturday’s 1600m distance at Morphettville.
Balfour said the gelding, with race jockey Simon Price aboard, galloped on Saturday morning in a fitness tune-up before a more competitive hit-out on Tuesday ahead of his trip to Melbourne.
“He’ll probably have a couple of rivals, sit off them, as we usually do, and let him finish off strong,” Balfour said.
“We’re still contemplating a gear change with him which we’ll have to make by Tuesday morning.”
Balfour is excited at the prospects of running in a $5 million race.
Up against such horses as Group One winners Happy Clapper, Hartnell, Grunt and Alizee, Balf’s Choice is giving away points in the ratings and is not well handicapped under the weight-for-age scale.
“We know the top end is first class. We’re under no illusions and he is poorly weighted, but it’s an exciting race,” Balfour said.
“You get to the race on the day and if you have your horse at their best, anything can happen.
“We’re out there to make a presence and be as competitive as we can.
“We don’t want to be out there making up the numbers. We’re out there to give it a real shot.
“If we can hit anywhere around that first five, it will be fantastic.”
Balfour has entrusted the ride to Price who rode for Balfour’s late father David in Adelaide and Singapore in a distinguished career interrupted by injury.
Price now rides the majority of work for Balfour and it will be the first time he has ridden in Melbourne for two years.
“Pricey’s had time off with injury and his weight has been heavy ever since,” Balfour said.
“When we’re up in the weights, I’d rather give the opportunity to Simon.
“He knows the horse intimately, does all the work with him and he’s pretty excited to be coming over.”