Dean Mirfin could potentially hold a very strong hand in Saturday’s Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick.
The Bathurst trainer has nominated three gallopers for the 1800m Class Three event, with Whatsin (57kg) set to be one of the top weights, while Hamogany (55kg) is all but guaranteed a start.
Saint Ay (54kg) currently sits 20th in the order of entry and will need some luck to feature in the $100,000 race.
Whatsin looks Mirfin’s best chance, after catching the eye last start when finishing eight of 17 in the 1600m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick on October 9.
After settling at the rear of the field, the five-year-old found the line nicely for Hugh Bowman despite finding traffic in the home straight, beaten only 3.78 lengths by Lord Desanimaux.
“She (Whatsin) is probably the focus horse of the three that I have entered,” Mirfin said.
“She will start shorter in the market and her last run was enormous.”
Bowman has been booked to ride the Epaulette mare, and Mirfin took confidence from the leading Sydney hoop’s comments regarding Whatsin and her potential to run a strong 1800m.
“I spoke to Hugh through the week and the prospect of 1800m, and he is very confident that would suit her perfectly,” Mirfin said.
“I’ve always thought she would be well-placed in a race like that but having Hugh say that does give me another layer of confidence.”
Prior to her eighth placing in the 1600m Highway, Whatsin finished third in the 1300m, ‘The Panorama’, flashing late and only beaten by The Kosciuszko placegetter, Spiranac, and accomplished sprinter, Ruthless Agent.
Mirfin said this form line justified his opinion of the talented mare, and since her previous two runs, he explained that she was ready and raring for Saturday’s assignment.
“She is a very handy mare and her form and benchmark tells you that,” Mirfin said.
“She carries relatively big weights in these types of races but that is because she is in exceptional form at the moment, and we are very happy with her.
“We have just ticked her over since that Highway. She had a lovely little gallop on the grass this morning (Tuesday) and Eleanor Webster-Hawes came back and reported that she worked beautifully.
“We haven’t had to do too much more; she is extra fit, and we are relying on the fitness she derived from that 1600m race to carry her through to the next run.”
Mirfin should also have Hamogany running, or at worst, listed as an emergency in the 1800m Class Three Highway.
The six-year-old comes out of the same 1600m Class 3 Highway Handicap as Whatsin, where he sat at the rear of the field early in proceedings after drawing a wide gate, before hitting the line strongly to finish 12th, beaten 5.71 lengths.
“He (Hamogany) is an underachiever, and he is a very nice horse. He can really gallop but he needs everything to go his own way on race day,” Mirfin said.
“He will run every inch of the 1800m, and we are expecting him to step up a bit from his last run.”
Mirfin is hoping Saint Ay, the last of his three entries, can gain a start too, with the six-year-old a tough front-running stayer suited to these high tempo Highways.
The six-year-old is second up, after resuming in a 1400m Open Handicap at Dubbo on October 1, and Mirfin said the Reset gelding was ready to put in a big run if he gained a start.
“Second up over the 1800m will suit him (Saint Ay) perfectly,” Mirfin said.
“He has won 2000m races before, rolling along and putting opposition to the sword, and if he gets a run and they go pretty quick, they will have to be brave because he will take them on and be very tough and give himself a good chance.”
The final field for Saturday’s Highway will be published by Racing NSW on Wednesday morning.