After being sidelined by a “one in a million” injury, Group 1 Maturity Classic finalist Handsome Rhino will ‘charge’ back into action at Healesville on Sunday afternoon, taking what trainer Paul Galea hopes are the first steps on the path to the Melbourne Cup.
Prior to his enforced spell, Handsome Rhino had been highly competitive in elite company, qualifying fastest for the Maturity at The Meadows in July with a 29.85sec heat victory, before running fifth to Qwara Bale in the final.
The May 2019 son of Aston Dee Bee and Got The Attitude, bred by St Albans-based Galea, who also bred his mother and grandmother (Amanda), then ran fifth to another superstar in a heat of the G3 Warragul St. Leger, beaten by eventual winner Aston Fastnet.
WATCH: Handsome Rhino (5) was the fastest qualifier for the G1 Maturity Classic at The Meadows in July, courtesy of a scorching 29.85sec all-the-way heat victory.
“Stepping up in grade is one thing but going up against Usain Bolt is another!” Galea quipped.
“Des Fegan (veterinary surgeon) said it was a ‘one in a million’ injury.
“He had four weeks off and he’s been back galloping for a couple of weeks. He’s had one 300m trial at Healesville and is definitely fit enough for a ‘300’.
“He’s going well. He’s his normal self. You can’t hold him – he just wants to go.
“The plan is to give him a couple up the straight, then maybe a 450m and I can’t wait to get him back up over ‘500’. I’d like to get to Sandown for one or two (Melbourne Cup) preludes.”
While Handsome Rhino (Box 2) has ‘bigger fish to fry’ in the weeks ahead, his return match-up on Sunday against flying speedster Oriental Amber (Box 4), the winner of 24 from 50 and the Horsham 410m record holder, promises to be a beauty.
“It’s a hard race, against a record holder in Oriental Amber, but if he gets out cleanly I think he can win,” said Galea.
“The main thing is that he has a good hit-out and gets around safely. I’ll be happy with that.”
On Friday night at Geelong, Galea has Handsome Rhino’s litter sister Black Robin, a last start 29.52sec winner at Sandown, engaged in the first of three Geelong Oaks heats, where form expert The Watchdog has tipped her on top.
“She’s always been pretty smart,” said Galea.
“She had always shown more early speed than Handsome Rhino and he’s been stronger but he’s showing as much speed as her now.
“Black Robin’s problem is if she gets hit. She doesn’t like that but if she can avoid ‘the seven’ (Tan Star) I think she should run in the first two.”
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