Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign, from former Orange trainer Gary Portelli’s stable, made an authoritative return to the track in Saturday’s $250,000 Inglis Sprint (1100 metres) at Warwick Farm, a race targeted as a launching pad for the three-year-old’s tilt at the TJ Smith Stakes.
Resuming after her somewhat disappointing 11th finish in last year’s The Everest, the filly justified her Winx-like $1.24 odds by cruising to a one-length victory from Brad Widdup’s Acqume ($13), while Tim Martin’s Limbo Soul ($10) was another two lengths back in third.
Already an exciting prospect considering she was training on as a Golden Slipper winner, She Will Reign’s victory opens up a number of equally as exciting prospects this autumn, although Portelli is cautious about pitting her against proven, matured sprinters.
"She is really still an unknown in the big sprints. It is tough for these three-year-olds to match it with those old sprinters. It is a different level," Portelli said.
"I saw it when I had Rebel Dane, they [three-year-olds] would be there one race and then gone.
"Sprinters mature as four and five-year-olds and I'm mindful of that with her and I don't want to overtax as a three-year-old. I want to have a horse for a couple of more years, so we will pick our races."
There was zero intention for She Will Reign to lead on Saturday, but the scratching of unbeaten Melbourne three-year-old Nature Strip forced jockey Ben Melham’s hand.
Although she was “a touch slow” out of the gates in Portelli’s view, she sped through to head the field and never looked troubled after that.
In fact, Melham took his foot off the gas in the last 100 metres. Riding She Will Reign for the first time since their Golden Slipper win together, he was reasonably impressed with the filly too, saying she’s stronger now than she was then.
“She has filled out and matured,’’ he said.
“She has always been a sensible horse but she is very casual now which is not a bad thing for a young filly.’’
Portelli explained he’ll be looking at the Oakleigh Plate and potentially the William Reid Stakes for the three-year-old next, on her way to the Group 1 $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes on day one of The Championships.
But the end goal is The Everest, this year worth $13 million.
He says he, and the filly, have “unfinished business there”.
“Everyone is aiming at The Everest so we are trying to showcase her ability now so someone can give us a slot,” Portelli said.
“But I don’t want to flatten her as a three-year-old and take on the older horses too often. We will look after her this autumn and then go for The Everest — we have some unfinished business there.’’