A suggestion from Darren Weir’s stable foreman and an endorsement from Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne has led to a significant gear change for leading Epsom Handicap contender Palentino.
And Weir believes the application of blinkers for Saturday’s $1 million race at Randwick will help the dual Group One-winning horse give Victoria’s premier trainer his first Sydney winner.
Palentino is striving for his third Group One win over 1600m having taken out the Australian Guineas in March and beating stablemate Black Heart Bart to win the Makybe Diva Stakes.
“Jarrod McLean runs my Warrnambool stable and rides him in his work and he said after the Makybe Diva he had been really well in himself but a little bit tricky to ride,” Weir said.
“He said if you went to change a stirrup iron or something like that he’d try to jump out from underneath you.
“So he asked me if he could work him in blinkers one morning and I said ‘no problem’.
“He worked him in blinkers and said he was terrific.”
Weir said Michelle Payne trialled the galloper in blinkers this week and backed up McLean’s suggestion.
“We put blinkers on him in a trial at Coleraine on Monday morning and he looked to work really well so we thought we’d put them on and see what happens,” Weir said.
“I think they’ll be great.”
Palentino shares Epsom favouritism at $6 with Hauraki and McCreery.
Weir has won three of Melbourne’s four Group One races so far this season but Black Heart Bart’s narrow second in last season’s All Aged Stakes is the closest Weir has come to winning a race in Sydney.
“I haven’t had a lot of runners up there but they haven’t run that well,” he said.
“Probably Black Heart Bart was a bit unlucky. Hopefully we’ll win a race up there one day.”
Palentino has top weight of 57kg and will be racing the clockwise direction for the first time but Weir says the horse is in great order and he is happy enough with barrier nine.
“The weight is the problem I guess but he’s a good horse so he deserves to get the weight,” Weir said.
“Hopefully he can get a good run and run really well. He’s in the right shape to be running well.”
Palentino is scheduled to travel to Sydney by road on Thursday night.