Grunt tailor-made for tilt at All-Star Mile

Grunt will be set for the All-Star Mile at Flemington in March. Picture: Getty Images
Grunt will be set for the All-Star Mile at Flemington in March. Picture: Getty Images

MICK Price could not believe his luck when he was told of the introduction of the $5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington in March.

It was as if the new race was specifically designed for his dual Group 1 winner.

"He's a walk-up start for it," Price said from New Zealand. "He's won two Group One races, both over 1600m at Flemington. He's definitely being set for the new race.

"I've rung up Rupert Legh and he's spoken to the other owners and they're keen. It's the ideal race for him."

Earlier this year Grunt won the Australian Guineas over 1600m at Flemington. Then his only win during the spring was also over 1600m in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes.

"How many horses heading for that race have won two Group Ones at Flemington and one at weight-for-age over 1600m?" Price said.

"He's won the only Group One weight-for-age mile race run for the season at Flemington so he's heading there."

Grunt has won two Group 1 races over the 1600m at Flemington. Picture: AAP
Grunt has won two Group 1 races over the 1600m at Flemington. Picture: AAP

Price had set Grunt for the Cox Plate or the Caulfield Cup this spring but sent him for a spell after he finished last in the Turnbull Stakes.

Price said he would plan on starting Grunt in the 1400m Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on February 23, next year and then go second-up into the All-Star Mile.

Price said he would also look at the All Star Mile for five-year-old mare Oregon's Day and also three-year-old filly Seabrook.

"That could fit in well for that pair as well," he said.

Trainer Pat Webster admits the All-Star Mile could force a rethink of his plans for popular miler Happy Clapper.

"I had it all figured out that he would go to the Canterbury Stakes, the George Ryder, the Doncaster and the Queen Elizabeth like he did last autumn," Webster said.

Happy Clapper could also be in the mix for the All-Star Mile. Picture: AAP
Happy Clapper could also be in the mix for the All-Star Mile. Picture: AAP

"This new race has changed things and is very much part of his program now, particularly if Winx doesn't go there. Why race against her if you don't have to and he has also run well at Flemington where he was second in the Emirates."

Meantime, Oliver Koolman, one of the managing owners of The Autumn Sun, poured cold water on a start in the All-Star Mile for the Caulfield Guineas winner.

Koolman, said on Tuesday, that The Autumn Sun was likely to follow "a traditional path" in the autumn and run in Group 1 races in Sydney.

Meanwhile, trainer Tony McEvoy has resisted any temptation to target another win at the rich Magic Millions race day at the Gold Coast with Sunlight and will wait for Group 1 sprints in Melbourne with the star filly.

Sunlight won the $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast in January and McEvoy had the option of a couple of races for the three-year-old on Millions day in January.

But after the filly's Group 1 win in the Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington earlier this month, McEvoy has made the decision to give Sunlight a break and wait for Melbourne's premier sprints in February and March.

Sunlight (right) will target the Lightning Stakes in the autumn. Picture: Getty Images
Sunlight (right) will target the Lightning Stakes in the autumn. Picture: Getty Images

"Sunlight is at my farm in the Barossa and she's having a month off and then I will train her for the Lightning Stakes on the 16th of February," McEvoy said. "That's her target.

"She's a Group One winner and it just didn't give her much time to get to the Magic Millions so I've decided to abort the Magic Millions, which is a bit sad because she's so good there.

"She can handle the heat, she handles that way of going and she's unbeaten on that track, but now that she's won that Group One it just changes her a little bit. And I'd like to set her for the Lightning and the Newmarket and then think about The Everest (October)."

The Lightning Stakes (1000m) and Newmarket Handicap (1200m) are both on the straight course at Flemington where Sunlight beat high-profile colts Zousain and Lean Mean Machine in the Coolmore.

- with AAP

News Corp Australia

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