Gundagai bred Cherry Tortoni primed for Sandown Stakes

Cherry Tortoni. Photo: Racing Photos.

Astute trainer Patrick Payne won’t be rushing the Gundagai bred and owned Cherry Tortoni this spring despite a terrific first-up run in The Sofitel at Flemington on September 11. 

The Night of Thunder gelding that is out of the Sandy Tait and Jill Nivison’s mare, Tortoni, found the line strongly in the 1400m Listed event, getting his nose in front at one stage before being edged by Harbour Views by a mere 0.1 of a length as the pair crossed the finishing line locked together in battle.

In what turned out to be a tantalising finish, the four-year-old beat home the highly touted Ayrton, after getting a good trail into the race behind the short-price favourite and finishing over the top of him after seven furlongs.  

Cherry Tortoni is now being prepared for Saturday’s Group Three Sandown Stakes over the 1600m, and bookmakers have not missed him this time, opening him up as short as $2.80 favourite with some agencies.

Despite talk of Cherry Tortoni potentially being set for the $7.5 million Golden Eagle at Rosehill on October 30 – among other feature races being spruiked as possible targets this spring – Payne has hinted his prized galloper would be a better ‘autumn’ four-year-old. 

“He’s a laidback character and I think his trials have been fair,” Payne said.

“I think he’s going to be better as an autumn four-year-old rather than a spring four-year-old.”

Cherry Tortoni meets Harbour Views again on Saturday, while another highly touted four-year-old in the form of Elephant is set to contest the same race and connections admit that another good run could change their spring plans. 

“I don’t think we are going to have anything too ambitious this preparation and not too many runs,” Payne said.

“If he is going great, well then yes, we can go a little more than what I am thinking, but I am mindful he will be better next time.”

It is interesting to note that Payne has changed tact with the 2021 Australian Guineas runner up and multiple Group and listed winner, setting him for a mile this preparation instead of the 2000m journey. 

According to Just Horse Racing’s form analyst, Adam Page, Cherry Tortoni ‘has been trained as a miler and his best figures have come when at this distance range’.

Gundagai breeder and owner Sandy Tait reiterated that Cherry Tortoni would be set for suitable races this preparation and confirmed there were no grand plans in the geldings near future.

“We will take it just one race at the time. That is the sensible way to approach his career,” Tait said. 

“He has never run a bad race and he is a very consistent horse and class horse, and we want to look after him and place him right.

“The longer distances were to his limit, and we thought it was better to get him back over a mile. 

“Sandown hillside is where horses can come from the back and that should suit him, and we expect him to go well.”

If Cherry Tortoni does run well and wins on Saturday, Payne, Tait and Nivision may need to reconsider their plans this spring though, with so many lucrative mile races in the offing.

In-form Victorian hoop Jye McNeil is back aboard Cherry Tortoni again and connections have drawn gate three in the event that has only attracted seven starters. 

Tait also has another chance at Sandown Hillside with Douceur contesting the fourth event, the Listed Jim Maloney Stakes over the 1400m for three-year-old fillies.

Michael Dee is booked for the ride and the three-year-old has drawn gate one.

“In the fourth race we have a promising filly, and her name is Douceur,” Tait said. 

“She is racing in the Jim Maloney stakes; she is quoted at 14/1 and she is going very well.”

Tait is generally one to breed his own stock, and the fact he has purchased the No Nay Never filly speaks volumes of her pedigree and potential.

“We breed most of our own, but she is a filly I bought. She is by No Nay Never and out of Zabeel mare by the name of Danalicious,” Tait said.

“She has very good pedigree and she has had five starts for two wins and was beaten at the Hillside last start by a short half head and I think he will run well.”