Michelle Mallia will have one eye on the fast approaching Group 1 Sale Cup when Aston Velvet and Fernando’s Quest contest Sunday evening’s heats of the Rotti Security Distance Championship over the 650m Cup course.
Mallia shapes as a key player in both heats, courtesy of Fernando’s Quest (heat 1, box 3), a flying last start winner over 515m at Sandown Park on Melbourne Cup night, and recent G1 Hume Cup heroine Aston Velvet (heat 2, box 8).
Form expert The Watchdog has rated both favourites, Fernando’ Quest at $2.70 and Aston Velvet $2.60.
With Aston Velvet’s frustrating run of draws continuing – she’s had five, five, six, four and now eight at her last five starts – Mallia nominated Fernando’s Quest as the better chance of her classy duo.
“Aston Velvet’s drawn a shocking box, as usual,” said Mallia.
“She just keeps drawing absolutely terrible. She’s there to get ready for the (Cup) heats. I’ve just got to hope she doesn’t crash over.
“Fernando’s Quest is well-suited in box 3 and he’s already run really fast time at Sale in his only start there. But don’t underestimate Aston Velvet. The issue is whether she can get across.”
Fernando’s Quest gave Mallia a pleasant surprise in the opening race at last Saturday night’s Melbourne Cup meeting, when leading all-the-way in a fast 29.30sec at $21.
WATCH: FERNANDO’S QUEST (B7) was “far too good” for his rivals in a commanding front-running exhibition at his only appearance at Sale, scoring by five lengths in a BON 37.28sec on August 21.
She’s optimistic the son of Fernando Bale and Quest For Glory, winner of 24 of his 76 starts, can make it two from two at Sale on Sunday, having won his only previous start at the venue in a Best Of Night 37.28sec in August.
“I was shocked to see Fernando’s Quest achieve what he did last week,” Mallia admitted.
“It was just phenomenal. He was only a length off the (Melbourne) Cup time.
“But once he got to the front, without getting carried away, I knew the race was over because the best part of his races is always the back end. I was absolutely stoked.
“He blew the clock up the first time I took him to Sale. He wasn’t that far off the record.
“He’s up against Jarick Bale, which is a great dog, and the Delbridges are having a fantastic run, but once Fernando’s Quest gets to the front, he’s very hard to get past.”
On Saturday night at The Meadows, Mallia has another likely Sale Cup contender in action in Golden Quest, a litter sister to Fernando’s Quest, which was a close fifth, beaten only two lengths, in the G1 Bold Trease (715m) at Sandown last weekend.
As is the case with Aston Velvet at Sale, Golden Quest will have to contend with the outside alley when she plummets in class for a Grade 5 heat over 730m (race 2 at 6.50pm), where she’s $2.20 favourite.
“Golden Quest was very unlucky in the big race. She should’ve nearly won,” Mallia said.
“She had box 6 last Saturday and she’s out in box 8 again this week, but she’s the best dog in the race.”
The heats of the Sale Cup will be held on Sunday, December 18, with Melbourne Cup winner Yachi Bale $7 favourite in Sportsbet’s ‘All In’ market, which has Aston Velvet at $12 and Fernando’s Quest $18.
Click HERE for Sportsbet’s latest ‘All In’ Sale Cup market