‘Betty’ back to her best for Turnbull
ANTHONY Darmanin is confident Mystic Journey - the horse that changed his life - will regain her mantle as the one to beat in this year's $5 million Cox Plate with victory in Saturday's Turnbull Stakes at Flemington.
The Australian Guineas and inaugural All-Star Mile winner lowered her colours in a race for the first time in more than 12 months when she finished second to $101 outsider Gatting in the Makybe Diva Stakes last month.
But Darmanin says "Betty" is ready to bounce back buoyed by news of a strong track gallop during the week and the fact she is nearing peak fitness.
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"I think the four weeks between runs might have cost her last time, but (trainer) Adam (Trinder) said she worked really well during the week," Darmanin said.
"Adam has poured the work into her and I have all the confidence in him and in Betty, so I can't wait for the Turnbull on Saturday."
Mystic Journey is $2.80 favourite for the Turnbull Stakes, a race Winx used as her Melbourne kick-off point in the last two of her four successive Cox Plate wins.
Improving galloper Mr Quickie is $3.80 second elect on Saturday, while Melbourne Cup fancy Finche ($9) and evergreen galloper Hartnell ($10) are also given chances.
Mystic Journey, the $11,000 bargain basement buy, took the autumn carnival by storm and has long been seen as the mare most likely to fill the Winx void heading towards the Cox Plate.
Her first-up win in the Peter Lawrence Stakes was outstanding, but Gatting's boilover win in the Makybe Diva Stakes had critics questioning the four-year-old mare's Cox Plate credentials.
She remains 's $6 equal Cox Plate favouritism alongside James Cummings' Avilius and Lys Gracieux.
Mystic Journey's defeat - only the fourth of her 15-start career - brought out some social media haters, who bombarded Trinder with abuse following the Tasmanian star's shock defeat.
But Darmanin said: "I just block it all out … I stay away from it as much as I can. There is always going to be negativity win, lose or draw.
"I thought she would run well (in the Makybe Diva), but Gatting was just better on the day.
"I know Adam has her spot on (for Saturday)."
|1. Hartnell||B Rawiller (5)|
|2. Trap For Fools||P Hall (12)|
|3. Mr Quickie||J Allen (11)|
|4. Mystic Journey||A Darmanin (9)|
|5. Rostropovich||D Dunn (10)|
|6. Finche||D Lane (2)|
|7. Verry Elleegant||M Walker (8)|
|8. Kings Will Dream||J McNeil (3)|
|9. Looks Like Elvis||D Bates (1)|
|10. Kentucky Breeze||J Kah (6)|
|11. Sound||J Winks (7)|
|12. Vow And Declare||D Oliver (4)|
He's convinced Mystic Journey will be suited by the rise to 2000 metres this week.
Darmanin, 37, can "never repay (Mystic Journey) back" for all she has done for him, including helping him back his mortgage off following the autumn riches she plundered.
"She has been a superstar to me," he said. "I never thought she would reach the heights she has, but she keeps raising the bar.
"No matter what happens on Cox Plate day, I'm sure she is going to put in a massive performance. She's so calm and relaxed; she keeps me relaxed."
One of Darmanin's career highlights was winning on Mystic Journey on Cox Plate day last year, as she blitzed a classy field to win the Group 2 Aquis Farm Fillies Classic.
"I've been mainly riding in the bush on Cox Plate days, so to win with her at Moonee Valley last year was a real highlight," he said. "Now we're almost at the big dance and I am pinching myself."