Palmer: Weight can stop Fire
Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer said his Emirates Melbourne Cup hopeful Wall Of Fire (IRE) is poised to perform in the spring carnival, but that the big factor against him in Saturday's Group 2 Ladbrokes Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) is his allotted weight.
Palmer is making a flying visit to Australia for the weekend given he has two runners on Caulfield Guineas Day - stable debutant Mask Of Time the other, in either the Listed Weekend Hussler Stakes (1400m) or the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) in which he waits on a run as first emergency.
Wall Of Fire is winless in 2017, although Palmer said the horse is in form on the back of a last-start second in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (about 2700m) at Newbury in August, but he conceded the weight scale - his charge is a 58kg topweight - wasn't in his horse's favour.
"He's travelled over fantastically well, he's had a good season," Palmer said at Werribee on Friday.
"He was unlucky at his last start, and he's come on again from then. This seems to be his time of year.
"He really hit his full speed last year in September, October, and he seems to have done the same this year.
"He does have a lot of weight; we're giving weight to Group 1 winners, which is not necessarily an easy thing. He's not a giant of a horse, and 58kg is a lot of weight for him.
"Provided we get to the Melbourne Cup, he'll be 5kg lighter than that, which could be a bit of a difference."
Add in the fact that out of the 17 horses to have started above 57kg in the past 30 years of the Herbert Power only two have won - Amralah (2015) and Sea Moon (2013) - with 13 of the 17 finishing unplaced.
But what is in Wall Of Fire's favour on Saturday is his ability to handle varying tempos and track conditions.
"He's a remarkable horse, really. He won his first career start over 1200m as a two-year-old, and he's won races over a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half, mile-six-and-a-half (2900m), so he's won over a range of distances which makes him versatile. He goes on all ground," Palmer said.
"Coming back in distance from his last start, I think a strong pace will help him, he does stay and a strong gallop would help him.
"He's drawn out wide, so we'll be looking to try and get a position, bearing in mind the shortish straight, I wouldn't want to be too far back in the run if you could design it ideally, but we'll see how the race goes."
Palmer is testing the waters with Mask Of Time, who was originally bound for Australian shores to spell before linking up with now-suspended trainer Ciaron Maher - the horse having raced in Europe for French trainer Andre Fabre.
And the UK-based horseman said he was dipping his toe in with the three-year-old (northern-hemisphere scale) on Saturday, saying the horse would be better suited by the mile of the Toorak over the seven-furlong Weekend Hussler.
"That's our hope [to target the mile features], but he's drawn nicely in both races," Palmer said.
"He's got a good draw, and we've had him in the barriers here and he's shown great gate speed.
"Hopefully he can do that and get a good position, and whether he [either Luke Currie or Daniel Moor, depending on which race] can necessarily get a nice breather into him over 1400m [or not remains to be seen] ... he might just be always doing enough to hold his position over 1400m, whereas over a mile he might be able to get into more of a rhythm.
"That's just my feeling in the few weeks of having him, but it's important to get him on the track and plan from there."
Caulfield to host Wall Of Fire (IRE) in his opening race of the Victorian Spring Carnival, picture Quentinjlang.com