David Polkinghorne August 09, 2012
The Cox Plate, the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup - it's the trilogy of Australian racing every trainer hopes to win.
Most never even have a runner in one of the three, but Canberra trainer Norm Gardner is hopeful Coliseo will be his first after nominating the six-year-old stayer for the richest 2400-metre race in the world.
Gardner will know by mid-September whether Coliseo has a realistic chance of making the field, but he was one of 222 nominations for the Caulfield Cup released yesterday.
He plans to resume the Arena gelding from his spell in the benchmark 95 handicap (1500m) at Rosehill on September 1.
That run will be a warm-up for the group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at the same track two weeks later.
How Coliseo performs in his first group race will decide his course for the spring.
''He'd have to win at least one of those group 3 races along the way to even contemplate [the Caulfield Cup], if he doesn't then he's not good enough anyway,'' Gardner told The Canberra Times yesterday.
''I'm really happy with him, he's always had a few issues [but] he's come back no problems this prep, we've had a trouble-free run so far.
''He's got a long way to go yet, but the next few runs, by the time we get to middle-late September we'll have an idea of where we're going with him - whether we lower the boom a bit or keep heading up.''
Targeting group races is the next step for Coliseo, after his last-start victory in the listed Wagga Wagga Cup (2000m).
He's yet to win at 2400m, although he finished fourth to Permit in the listed NE Manion Cup at Rosehill, as well as a second at Kembla Grange.
But Gardner is confident the trip won't be a problem. He feels Coliseo has finally come of age after struggling with injury early in his career.
Coliseo missed a year with a suspensory ligament problem in his leg and then suffered a shoulder injury on his return.
He's also matured in his last preparation, convincing Gardner he's ready to go to the next level.
''He's been a horse that's been a little bit wayward, he's been a horse that has soundness issues and this time back he mentally seems to be really focused and we're injury-free,'' Gardner said.
''I just think maturity - being those staying-type horses he's probably still 12 months away to be fully matured.
''But what I like about him in the staying races is he's always a chance because he relaxes so well, he never over-races and he's got a really good sprint at the finish.
''You're always a chance when you've got a horse like that.''
A successful spring could lead to Gardner winning his first group race.
He's only won the one listed race - the Wagga Wagga Cup with Coliseo.
Queanbeyan Cup winner Peal of Bells has also been nominated for the Caulfield Cup, as well as the Cox Plate.