Melham answers Portelli SOS for VilliersThursday 14 December 201
Gary Portelli is pinning his hopes on Testashadow's experience, and the presence of his go-to jockey to drive the gelding to an unexpected victory in the Villiers Stakes.
The seven-year-old is among the double-figure chances to win the Group Two feature at Randwick on Saturday, but Portelli would not rule out Testashadow upstaging Godolphin favourite Interlocuter.
Blessed with a handy draw and buoyed by a last-start victory in the Festival Stakes (1500m), Portelli is also encouraged by Melbourne-based Ben Melham riding Testashadow for the first time.
Portelli thought Jason Collett would remain the saddle but he chose to ride Queensland visitor Crack Me Up to leave the Warwick Farm trainer briefly in the lurch.
"Ben's my go-to man whenever I need a jockey and he was happy to come up," Portelli said.
He met Melham for the first time shortly before he rode Rebel Dane to victory in the 2016 Group One Manikato Stakes.
More success followed with She Will Reign in this year's Inglis Nursery and the Golden Slipper.
"We've got a great association and hopefully that continues on the weekend," Portelli said.
Testashadow jumps from barrier eight in the 14-horse field which should allow Melham to position him comfortably to run out the 1600 metres.
"His racing style is to be on pace. Unless there's a lot of speed inside him, that's where he'll be," Portelli said.
Although Testashadow was $17 in the TAB market on Thursday which was headed by Interlocuter ($3.30), Portelli said the veteran was capable of defying the odds to notch his ninth career win.
"Interlocuter looks good but young horses coming through, you don't know where they're going to end up," Portelli said.
"Testashadow looks fit and ready to go, he's tightened up and looks like he's at his peak."
Portelli said the future was more certain for Testashadow, with a defence of the Magic Millions Cup on January 13 the goal.
Even if Testashadow won and gained an exemption to the Group One Doncaster Mile in April, he would still head to the Gold Coast.
"I don't think he's good enough to win a Doncaster," Portelli said.
Melham is also booked to ride the Paul Perry-trained Ragged Rascal in the Inglis Nursery (1000m).
He will remain in Sydney to ride the Portelli-trained Secret Lady in a barrier trial on Tuesday because he will ride the filly in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic.