Heavyweight ready for her grand final
Matamata trainer Paul Shailer says Fantastic Honour is not just a huge horse but also a huge hope of winning Sunday's $1 million Karaka Million at Ellerslie.
Shailer, who trains in partnership with his brother Kris from dual bases at Matamata and Awapuni, will leg up his partner, Palmerston North jockey Kelly Myers, on Sunday with big confidence of success - nearly as big as his filly.
''She is huge. She is a really big horse,'' Shailer said.
''When she won her first start at Otaki, she was 550 kilos. When she won her next start she was 560 kilos and when she raced at Ellerslie the other day she was 570 kilos.
''I weighed her the other day and she was 576 kilos and she's fitter than she's ever been. She's just building muscle and growing.''
That weight would make Fantastic Honour one of the heaviest horses racing in New Zealand, let alone two-year-old.
Shailer said he hadn't heard of a heavier two-year-old racing.
He said there was a 600kg two-year-old at Chris Waller's Sydney stable when he was working there but he didn't race at two.
''I guess it means if Kelly's in a bit of a pocket at the top of the straight and she needs to get out, we wouldn't have any trouble with giving anyone a bump,'' he said.
TAB bookmakers yesterday had the monster Any Suggestion filly as a $7 equal third favourite with Catalonia for the 1200m two-year-old showpiece, behind Ruud Awakening at $2.40 and second favourite Gobi Ranger at $6.50.
Mostly prepared at Awapuni, Fantastic Honour won her first two starts at Otaki before flashing home for second to Gobi Ranger in the Gr III Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1 in a race run to suit those on speed.
''Blind Freddy could see she should have won,'' Shailer said.
''Her last 600m would have been phenomenal. They ran their first 600m in 37 [seconds] and their last 600 in 34, so you can only imagine what she would have run home in.
''We went up there and it was a bit of the unknown because we'd only been racing down here but after that run, it has given us a bit of confidence for going to the big one.
''She's done really well. I couldn't been happier with her. She's come home, eaten everything we've given her and she's been really bright. I can't fault her actually. It's been a faultless preparation.''
Vinnie Colgan rode Fantastic Honour in the Eclipse Stakes as Shailer and Myers' plane was delayed and the pair missed the race, though there was never any doubt that Myers would be back on for the Karaka Million.
The Eclipse performance was all the more meritorious as Fantastic Honour copped an early check and raced greenly in her first start right-handed, though Shailer was unconcerned about that for her second start at the track.
''We've drawn one on Sunday and I'm not worried about that at all,'' he said.
''It was just that she'd drawn seven of seven and it's only a short run to that first turn at Ellerslie and she just got it wrong.
''Although we'd worked her that way around, she'd never been that way before under the pressure of raceday and she just thought she was at Otaki again and forgot to go right-hand down but she'll be right on Sunday with horses drawn outside her.''
So is the huge filly a huge chance to win?
''I think she is. Obviously in these two-year-old races you need a lot of luck, but I think she is,'' Shailer said.
''She's a really good horse. She's a Gr I horse - maybe not a Gr I two-year-old, not that this is a Gr I race, but she'll be a Gr I three-year-old. I know that.''
Asked the main danger, Shailer replied: ''Ruud Awakening. It's her race to lose, or at least that's what everyone says.
''But she hasn't been in a high-pressure race. She's got to go to another level yet, like we all do. She's not unbeatable by any means but she's still the hardest horse to beat.''
Fantastic Honour is a terrific advertisement for the Shailer brothers' training ability in just the stable's second year of existence and for their eye for a yearling.
Paul Shailer bought Fantastic Honour for $80,000 at Karaka last year out of the draft of Matamata's Bradbury Park, run by the filly's breeders Casey and Michelle Dando.
''The biggest appeal for me was the way she walked. She walked really loose and so relaxed. She was a cracking type too,'' Shailer said.
''A lot of people thought she was too big, but I thought she had great bone to go with her size. It's a great [pedigree] page too, a very good family.''
Shailer said no matter how she performs tomorrow, Fantastic Honour's run would be her last for the season.
''Win, lose or draw, she goes to the paddock and that's always been the plan,'' Shailer said.
''One jumpout, one trial, four races - and the fourth was always going to be this race, her grand final. We'll bring her back as a three-year-old and focus on winning a Guineas with her.''