A break in the paddock has worked wonders for talented Phillip Stokes-trained filly Hanabi, who makes her debut at Morphettville today.
Tommy Stokes said the daughter of Pride Of Dubai had taken big steps in her second preparation, evident with an impressive 2.3-length Gawler trial win on January 23.
“We really like her, (but) she surprised us a little bit in the trial,” Stokes said.
“In her first ever jump-out at Morphettville she was green, she jumped slowly and she did a right-hand turn on the corner and it was disastrous.
“We put her out and forgot about her for a while. We always thought she’d be a three-year-old but we put her in that trial for experience and she jumped out of the ground.”
Stokes was buoyed by the fact she has progressed well since her trial win.
“She’s really starting to work it all out,” he said Stokes added.
“Her gallops since have been really good. She still does a lot wrong but on raw ability she’s a smart one.”
The stable will also debut well-travelled gelding Live And Free, who was runner-up in the Group 3 Scone Cup last May before failing to fire in two Darwin starts for Gary Clarke.
“I’m really looking forward to him,” Stokes said.
“He’s a pleasure to train; he’s really good out on the track.
“His gallops have only been plain. He just does enough, but his jump-out was super impressive and his trial leading into this was even better…
“If he can get some cover I think he’s a live chance.”
And he indicated another lightly raced youngster, Virtue, would be hard to beat second-up from a break and running third behind Chill With Teejay as a $2.30 favourite on debut.
“I reckon she might be our best chance for the day,” Stokes said.
“She’s improved; she was a bit fat first-up. I wanted her to lead first-up but she couldn’t and I think she’s a better horse ridden out front.
“I think she’ll run a really good race.”
IMAGE: Virtue pictured at Morphettville before running a close third last month.