DAVE Geall can take a giant step towards an unprecedented second straight Group 1 Golden Easter Egg when Miss Splendamiro starts favourite in the fourth semi-final of NSW’s richest race, set to jump at 8.05pm on Saturday.
After winning the 2018 Easter Egg with superstar Up Hill Jill, the Lara trainer is striving to create history with Miss Splendamiro, beaten favourite in the $250,000 to-the-winner sprint last year, when trained in NSW.
Victorians have reigned in the past nine renewals of the Easter Egg; however no trainer has yet been able to go back-to-back in the race’s 30-year history.
“Winning the Easter Egg once was a huge thrill but it’s a massive race and I’ve got so much respect for it, so I’d love to be there again,” said Geall.
“Up Hill Jill also made the final the year before she won the Egg, so if Miss Splendamiro can finish in the first two in her semi-final that will give us three finalists in a row.”
Having started her career in NSW, Miss Splendamiro is well-acquainted with Sydney’s Wentworth Park, winning 14 of her 25 starts at the venue, the most recent an airborne all-the-way 29.54s heat success last weekend.
Miss Splendamiro is the $2.90 TAB favourite from box three in a deep semi-final, ahead of rails runner Mystic Riot, winner of the inaugural Million Dollar Chase in Sydney last October, at $3.10 and fellow Victorians Whiskey Riot ($6) and Blue Striker ($6.50).
“She had the red in her heat and went super,” Geall said.
“She’s drawn okay in box three but it’s a very hard semi.
“Crimson Vixen would’ve been hard to beat but she was scratched and the (Group 2) Richmond Derby winner (Catch Me Curly) gets a run.
“She loves Wentworth Park and she knows the lure, the noise and the boxes. She’s a fairly reliable beginner up there so we’ve just got to hope she jumps.
“I just felt that after having a 600m at Cannington she came out with a bit more purpose last week. We were a little bit worried after she copped three bad knocks in the Perth Cup heats, Australian Cup and Paws Of Thunder.
“We couldn’t afford to go into an Easter Egg series like that, so after the Perth Cup heats I left her there with Chris Halse for a 600m, where we were positive she would lead but not necessarily win. She ran third but she got on the lure and scorched early, which was exactly what we wanted for her confidence.”
While Up Hill Jill, which also provided Geall with his first Group 1 winner in the 2017 Topgun, will obviously always hold a special place in his heart, he conceded there are similarities with Miss Splendamiro.
“They are similar in that they’re just very professional race dogs and very switched on when it’s race day,” Geall offered.
“But Miss Splendamiro’s first split is a length and a half to two lengths off Up Hill Jill.
“Miss Splendamiro is a brilliant racer but she began like a rocket in her heat and ran 5.42s early, whereas Up Hill Jill ran 5.31s at Wentworth Park.
“And gee, what a difference that length and a half makes when you’re trying to win Group 1 and Group 2 races!”
Miss Splendamiro and Seona Thompson’s Melbourne and Australian Cup runner-up Black Opium loom as Victoria’s best chances of continuing their recent Easter Egg domination, both occupying the second line of betting on TAB’s all-in market at $7.