Smith Signals Early Start For Nimalee And Acid Test For Emerging Belle

Group 1 winner Nimalee is trainer Matthew Smith’s highest profile runner at Randwick on Saturday but he’s very interested to see if emerging mare Daralina Belle can tell him she’s worthy of a spring stakes target.

Trainer Matthew Smith (Pic: Steve Hart)

Nimalee, who won the Queen Of The Turf in the autumn, resumes in the Group 2 $250,000 Expedo Missile Stakes (1200m) and Smith said it’s very much a starting point for her campaign.

The six-year-old has never raced below 1400m and, while she does have a solid first-up record, the Warwick Farm trainer is keen to get her started with another Group 1 looming later this month.

“She’s caught me out a couple of times early in her preps being on the big side so we thought we’d get her started a run earlier,’’ he said.

“The 1200m will be too short so we’re not too worried about Saturday, it’s to get a run under her belt and get her ready for the Winx.

“I would expect she will be going back and running on strong. If it belts down with rain and she’s a winning chance then good but it’s about getting her started.”

Smith said Nimalee’s major aim at this stage is the Empire Rose, a race she ran fourth in last year, in Melbourne but after the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) in two weeks an Epsom Handicap could be on the radar.

“We’ll stay in Sydney for the first part and we’ll head down to Melbourne for a crack at the mares race,’’ he said.

“We’ll go to the Winx then work it out from there.”

Nimalee was $12 with TAB on Thursday and $26 in all-in Epsom betting.

Daralina Belle has a way to go to reach Nimalee’s heights but Smith was taken with the lightly raced five-year-old’s last start win at Caulfield, her fourth in nine starts.

She was coming back in distance to 1100m in that race a month ago but produced a sharp turn of foot to run her rivals down and that told Smith if she runs well again in the Bisley Workwear Handicap (1300m) he might set his sights higher.

“I thought she’d be back in the last three and wouldn’t be able to win so it was very big effort to win,’’ he said.

“When they win like that, when they shouldn’t be winning, they are generally a little bit better than average. She’s a nice mare and hopefully she can put another good run in.

“We’ll find out a bit more about where her level is. She looks like a progressive mare and we’ll see what it brings.

“You’d like to think she might progress to stakes company.”

Wide barriers and the washout at Randwick two weeks ago have kept Marchioness off the scene since her handy first-up performance and she’ll finally have the chance to back it up in the Verto Handicap (1200m).

The ex-Kiwi mare finished eighth behind Lady Brook over 1100m, beaten under four lengths, but with the gap between runs it’s kept Smith’s confidence levels on the conservative side.

“She’s a lovely big mare, she’s only won a couple of low rating races in New Zealand and I think somewhere between 1200m and 1400m will be her go,’’ he said.

“I think she will run another really good race like she did in her first run, she’ll be hitting the line strong.”

Stayer Attorney pleased his trainer with a first-up midfield finish in the South Grafton Cup over a mile but he said the gelding is still a run or two away from his best and will have to go back from a wide gate in the Recovery Partners Premier’s Cup Prelude (1800m).

“That was as good as he runs first-up and he’s trained on great,’’ he said.

“Barriers are everything in those races, there’s not much between them and if you draw a good gate you’re four off them and a chance.”

– Racing NSW

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