Winterbottom Dream for star Albany sprinter
Star Albany sprinter Dream Lifter will face the biggest test of his highly successful career thus far, when the Paul Hunter-prepared galloper tackles his maiden Group 1 assignment in Saturday’s $1 milllion Crown Perth Winter-bottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot.
Dream Lifter will finally run in his first Group 1 feature race after plans to run him in last year’s Winterbottom Stakes had to be aborted despite winning the Cyril Flower Stakes and running second in the Bunbury Stakes earlier in 2016.
Foot problems have been the major hindrance for the classy sprinter but his performances when sound have been superb, winning eight of his 26 starts and being placed on 12 other occasions.
Dream Lifter was spelled after running 15th in the Roma Cup in May and has returned in terrific order, trialling strongly in Albany before an eye-catching third to Dainty Tess in the Group 3 Prince Of Wales Stakes (1000m) on November 4 when resuming.
After a strong gallop last Friday, Dream Lifter worked on the sand course at Percy Spencer Racecourse yesterday morning ahead of the Group 1 test.
“There are not many Group 1s around and it’s taken us a few years to get him here,” Hunter said. “It’s a pretty big task but we feel he is ready.
“He’s in pretty good order, his first-up run was good and the extra distance will suit.
“We were happy to go there (to a Group 1 race). It’s a bit of a shy at the stumps but he’s in a really good space right now.”
The eight-year-old will be out to create history for long-time local trainer Hunter and his nephew and jockey Mitchell Pateman.
Hunter has never had a Group 1 runner in his training career while Pateman has ridden in three Group 1 races previously without success.
“It’s great to be on a live Group 1 chance and hopefully we can get into a lovely spot in running from the good gate,” Pateman said.
“He very rarely runs a bad race, so if he gets a soft run, I can see him being in the finish.”
Hunter’s daughter and apprentice jockey Casey Hunter provided the family with an early boost when she drew barrier three for Dream Lifter at Tuesday’s barrier draw.
The Danehill Express gelding will carry 58.5kg in the field of 12 runners, which is headed by $2.90 favourite State Solicitor and also includes Rock Magic along with invaders Santa Ana Lane and Viddora.
Dream Lifter was quoted an $81 chance with Tabtouch yesterday.
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