The wind was bitterly cold as showers consistently swept the Heavy (10)-rated course but even winter’s most challenging conditions couldn’t deter Australia's premier sprinter from showing his wares at the Cranbourne trials on Monday.
It was hardly the setting to inspire a great performance but Santa Ana Lane reveled in his first trip away from home for the campaign, towing his careful rider Mark Zahra into fourth place in the 800-metre trial in his first serious hitout for the preparation.
"His first trial in his preparation can often be a bit lazy but he was really sharp today," assistant trainer Sam Freedman said.
"He had a nice hitout. It was very heavy so we had to hold him together and he worked to the line under his own steam.
"He’s not overly comfortable in that really heavy ground but Mark (Zahra) said he wanted to let rip.
"It was his first trip away from the farm so he was really happy out there."
Santa Ana Lane, picture Sportpix.com.au
It is hardly time for the five-time Group 1 winner let rip as the favourite for October’s $14 million The Everest (1200m) has a long road ahead of him to get to Randwick on that day.
Freedman said the stable is mindful of not pressing the button too early on the horse, who will have another practice run before he returns to the races.
"He’ll have another trial in a couple of weeks – we haven’t decided whether it’s back here or up in Sydney," Freedman said.
"He’ll just have the one run leading in and that will be in The Shorts about a month before The Everest.
"We’re really taking the same tack we took with him from the Newmarket into the T.J. Smith which was a month between runs with a trial in between."
The Anthony Freedman stable is in the enviable position ahead of the spring of having two great chances in the two richest races as apart from training The Everest favourite, the stable also has the only horse confirmed with a spot in the Melbourne Cup in the shape of Steel Prince.
Somewhat surprisingly, given his Irish heritage, Steel Prince did not enjoy the cold and wet conditions at Cranbourne as he finished seventh of eight runners in the 1190-metre trial won by Black Heart Bart.
Sam Freedman however said he was pleased enough, especially as the horse has the luxury of being for just the one race.
"He was good but in that heavy ground he’s not that at home," Freedman said.
"He didn’t really handle it today but he was working home quite nicely towards the end and Ollie (Damien Oliver) – who knows him quite well – said he was really happy with the trial."
Steel Prince begins his spring campaign in the Listed Heatherlie Handicap (1700m) at Caulfield on August 31 in the first of four planned runs heading into the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 5.