THE Magic Millions stage is set for an intriguing showdown next week, with locally trained filly Houtzen storming to the top of markets with another dominant display on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Betting operators immediately lifted Houtzen to Magic Millions 2YO Classic favourite, which came just hours after Chris Waller all but confirmed a start for boom Sydney filly From Within.
The picture was also made clearer by the defeat of Single Bullet in Sydney. Trainer Gary Portelli ruled out a Millions start, despite the prizemoney for second being enough to qualify the colt.
Houtzen needed to earn money to assure herself a start in the $2 million Classic and after her 4½-lengths win, she joins Chris Munce's unbeaten speedster Ours To Keep in giving Queensland a strong hand in the race.
Racing a week before the Magic Millions was never the preferred option for Houtzen trainer Toby Edmonds, who anticipated having a start in the race secured a lot earlier.
"We got behind the eight-ball when a set of trials were cancelled here and that meant we couldn't start when we wanted to and had to wait another week or two,” he said.
"So it hasn't been ideal the whole way through. It's nice to have an easy race a week out, but I would have liked to see her have a race and see how she responds. As it is, she's been able to get in the field through the back door.”
Jeff Lloyd rode the filly in a gallop last Tuesday and told Edmonds she could go around the outside fence and still win on Saturday. Lloyd has been taken by the improvement Houtzen has made from one start to the next.
"She has matured a lot these past few weeks,” he said. "She was definitely immature before her first run, but that obviously did her the world of good. She's got a great temperament and coming here today, it was like she'd had a spell in between runs.”
Lloyd said he wouldn't mind if he was forced to take a sit behind the speed next week, but to date there had been no need for that and he had been happy to use her natural speed.
From Within pleased Waller on Saturday and she will be an acceptor on Monday for the race.
"She galloped at Rosehill over 800m and settled nicely in behind stablemate Religify,” Waller said. "She was asked to improve from the 400m mark and quickened stylishly, pleasing rider Hugh Bowman.
"Hugh was happy with how she felt and her turn of foot. She may have another gallop on Tuesday if required and a final decision will be made on Tuesday morning but at this stage we are confident that she will race in the Magic Millions.”
Waller said Bowman would take the mount, as he has always been the No.1 choice, but was suspended for her race debut.
2YO MAGIC MILLIONS
From Within $4.40
Invincible Star $7
Ours To Keep $10
Others from $16
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