The draw of the Winterbottom Stakes hurdle was something Mitchell Bateman had no control over, but he hopes it can play an ethereal role in This’Ll Testya’s quest for victory in Saturday’s race at Ascot.
And not just because he believes Middle Alley will help the seven-year-old mare’s chances.
Testa Rossa’s daughter drew the nine in the $1.5 million Series 1 but will start at the eighth gate if she doesn’t earn the Titans Blinders emergency.
That was exactly the scenario for Willoughby, who was trained by Mitchell’s late father Michael, when he won a Group One Railroad race in 1998.
“Willoughby drew nine and jumped off eight where it looks like we’ll be, so hopefully history will repeat itself,” he said.
“She pulled the (wide) river all in preparation but she raced very well so maybe it’s nice to be somewhere in the middle.”
Winterbottom will be the first group sprinter for Pittman, who switched to training midway through last year after weighing brought an early end to his career as a jockey.
The 27-year-old has had a stellar career in the saddle, riding nearly 750 winners, including a handful at Group 3 level, but he has never had many real winning chances at the highest level.
He pinches himself so much that he had one very early in his coaching career.
“It’s massive, I’ve been in the first 12 months of my coaching career, so having a horse that’s on the market in Group One is not something that’s thought of as going to happen,” Bateman said.
“I’ve never been able to ride Group 1 horses with chances because of my weight, so to be able to train one in my first 12 months and have it as such a special horse for me is just as satisfying.”
Bateman set his sights on the Winterbottom Stakes with This’ll Testya after the seven-year-old was ridden by Winterbottom’s rival Miss Kontiki into first place in the Listed Crawford Stakes on 15 October.
She was again runner-up to Miss Kontiki in the Group Three Prince of Wales Stakes (1000m) two weeks later before winning the Group Three Colonel Reeves Stakes (1100m) on her last appearance.
Batman knows that form is good enough to compete with the locals, it’s just a matter of whether he’s good enough to banish the likes of Queensland star Ruth Fair, Godolphin pair Paolelli and Fellana and Newmarket Handicap runner-up The Astrologist.
“Once she ran first and sat outside the track and was only caught by Miss Kontiki, I thought she was on the right track,” Bateman said.
“She’s been so consistent in all the preparations against the best horses we have, now she just has to take it to the eastern states horses.”
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