Chris Waller’s Melbourne operation has adopted a relaxed approach to training Humidor in the hope of helping the one-time nemesis rediscover his best.
Humidor, who famously threatened to upset Winx in the 2017 Cox Plate, has gone without a win for 735 days, including 14 starts and as many gear changes at six tracks in three states for three different trainers.
Since joining the Waller stable for what could be a spring swan song the eight-year-old three-time Group 1 winner has had his training pared “back to basics” in a bid to end the run of outs.
The warhorse Humidor is one of nine gallopers chasing a golden ticket into the $5 million Cox Plate through the Group 2 Feehan Stakes on Saturday at The Valley.
While it could be the only way to gain a third start in the weight-for-age championship, based on recent form, the free pass has not entered the Waller camp’s calculations.
CWR general manager Charlie Duckworth said Humidor‘s spring would not hinge on Saturday as the stable works towards re-energising the $4 million stakes-winner.
“There‘s plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and the Cox Plate,” Duckworth said.
“If we can get him there, we’ll be doing our level best, but … it’s very hard to use (the Feehan) as his grand final if you’re going to have a grand final in two months’ time.
“There‘s no pressure on him (this Saturday) … he’s fit enough to run up to his best (and) still going to improve off it.”
Humidor has options from an inside barrier and could benefit from a taking a stalking position in what should be a truly run race with likely leaders Sirconni and Streets Of Avalon.
“If he brings his best then he’s right up to them, no questioning that,” Duckworth said.
“Age does slow things down but we can’t really fault him.”
Humidor had three lacklustre starts in Perth for master horseman Lindsey Smith and could do no better than a fifth-placing in a Group 3.
The ex-Darren Weir-trained gelding only battled last spring with trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
But stable-surfing Humidor was enjoying “being a horse again”, according to Duckworth.
“I think a lot of it is just a change of environment and the way we train might be slightly different,” Duckworth said.
“Less high intensity and we really use our trials and jump outs to ensure the fitness levels are enough to be very competitive first up but still leaving some improvement in them.
“Every trainer is different but if you look at the oldest horse in our stable at the moment, Mister Sea Wolf, he‘s nine and he’ll be hard to beat in the Chelmsford.”
DUO CAN RECTIFY GUINEAS RECORD
– Leo Schlink
Accustomed to Group 1 success in sprinting and staying contests, Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra have been strangely inconspicuous as Thousand Guineas influences.
While the training partnership has savoured Golden Slipper and VRC Oaks success at the highest level, the spring’s premier 1600m fillies’ contest has only once drawn a stable runner – Sharnee Rose, who finished third behind Atlantic Jewel and Mosheen in 2011.
“I’m not sure why but we’ve only ever had one runner in the Thousand Guineas,” Zahra said.
“Hopefully we might have some this year.”
The stable has three nominations for the October 10 Thousand Guineas, including Dirty Thoughts and River Night who are both engaged in the Listed Atlantic Jewel Stakes (1600m) at The Valley on Saturday.
Zahra said both fillies deserved a tilt at black type after showing excellent form.
“Dirty Thoughts has probably jumped out of the ground a bit and has been a bit of a surprise packet with three wins in a row, but she’s been up for a while now,” he said.
“The Thousand Guineas wasn’t really a target but she’s put herself in the mix and shown she’s worthy of a crack.”
To be ridden by Daniel Moor – who is chasing a fourth win a row on the daughter of So You Think – Dirty Thoughts is an $8.50 chance.
River Night, who will be partnered by Damian Lane, is rated a $6.50 chance behind Agreeable ($4) and Night Raid ($4.80).
A tenacious second to Bella Nipotina in the Group 3 Quezette Stakes, River Night probably “needs to settle a bit better”, according to Zahra.
“If she can run well on Saturday, she’ll probably go to the Thousand Guineas Prelude in three weeks’ time,
“She’s got a really good turn of foot and hopefully she can use that on Saturday.”