Sydney racing’s winter find Sky Command is the slow burn that suddenly ignited.
Sky Command’s emergence has even taken trainer Gary Portelli by surprise as she vaults into stakes grade for the Listed $150,000 The Rosebud (1100m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Unbeaten in two starts, Sky Command’s late season form surge coincided with the Portelli run of success that has netted 11 winners during July and another two wins already this week including Arctic Thunder at Kensington on Wednesday.
Portelli remembers telling a leading stable client at the start of the year he was concerned his team was lacking in carnival quality horse but now he has a stable full of promising three-year-olds including the likes of Sky Command, Royalzel and Hi Hi Hi.
Sky Command has been a bit of a surprise for trainer Gary Portelli. Photo: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph
“It just goes to show how quickly it can change,” Portelli said.
“No amount of money can buy a guarantee in this game – you just never know in this business where that next good horse is going to come from.
“She Will Reign is a perfect example of that. When she had her first gallop, she ran times I had never seen before. I took a photo of my stopwatch and sent it to her owner.
“She ran 21.5s for the last 400m after going 800m – I knew straight away she was a gun.”
But Sky Command didn’t have the immediate impact of Portelli’s 2017 Golden Slipper winner, She Will Reign.
A big, powerful filly, Sky Command’s size probably told against her early in her juvenile season as she went shin sore twice, delaying her race debut.
The first time Portelli really took notice of Sky Command was when he gave the filly a jump-out at Warwick Farm against more experienced, proven horses and she more than held her own.
“I told Sky Command’s rider to give the filly a dig at the start to teach her how to come out of the barriers,” Portelli said.
“She led them up by five lengths then was held together as the others were ridden out to get past her.
Gary Portelli was pleased with Above And Beyond last start and expects a forward showing again. Photo: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Afterwards she had the biggest blow so I knew I had a fast filly and just needed to work on her fitness.”
Sky Command finally stepped out for her race debut on June 30 and won by a comfortable margin at the Warwick Farm midweeks.
Portelli then tested her in Saturday class at Randwick over 1100m last month and she toyed with a smart field of youngsters to win by two lengths, convincing her trainer she deserves a chance in The Rosebud.
“Sky Command’s had two easy wins,” Portelli said.
“She hasn’t seen another horse yet – the only time she has seen them was at the barriers.
“Both her wins have been on heavy tracks so she has that ‘wet track’ tag at the moment but from what I have seen at home on the dry, I’m sure she can be just as effective on good tracks.”
Portelli said Sky Command showed her usual brilliance on a good surface at Warwick Farm on Tuesday morning trackwork when she was paired up with stablemate Above And Beyond.
“Sky Command sat off him and ran 10.5s the last furlong (a200m) under a stranglehold,” the trainer said.
“She could have put four or five lengths on the other horse. There is something there for sure, she does things that get you a bit excited, no doubt.”
The blinkers go back on Picaro at Randwick on Saturday. Photo: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph
Portelli said his long-range plan with Sky Command to target the Group 1 $1 million Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens later next month.
“This is her first race preparation so we will take it one race at a time,” the trainer said.
“But she is such a tough filly I wouldn’t be surprised if she is still going later in the spring.
“There’s the old saying ‘if they are going good, keep them going’ because they don’t always come back next preparation.”
Sky Commands heads Portelli’s competitive team for the first Saturday meeting of the 2021-22 season that includes Above And Beyond in the Billy Camer Handicap (1500m).
Above And Beyond resumed with a close fifth behind Cuban Royale at Rosehill two weeks ago.
“I thought Above And Beyond went really well at Rosehill, he was warming up late,” Portelli said.
“He hates going inside horses but there was no other option and he still found the line well. The 1500m should suit him and we have Tom Sherry in the saddle.”
Portelli also has Picaro and third emergency Squanto entered for the Midway Handicap (1800m),
“Picaro was a bit flat last start but we have kept him really fresh and will put the blinkers back on,” the trainer revealed.
“Squanto was strong through the line when winning at Kembla Grange last start. I hope he gets a run as he’s going well.”
From the Golden Slipper to the championships, Sky News takes a look back at the wonder of the Autumn Racing Carnival….
From the Golden Slipper to the championships, Sky News takes a look back at the wonder of the Autumn Racing Carnival.
Originally published asThe Sky’s the limit for exciting filly
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