Gary Portelli’s Fireburn and Sejardan to take on Godolphin duo

Trainer Gary Portelli is relying on his one-two punch with Fireburn and Sejardan to deliver a knockout blow to the might of Godolphin in the Group 1 $1 million Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

The Godolphin stable has a particularly powerful presence in the feature three-year-old classic with favourites In Secret and Golden Mile.

In Secret dominated her rivals including Portelli’s unplaced duo Fireburn and Sejardan when a runaway winner of the Run To The Rose at Rosehill two weeks ago.

On the same program, Golden Mile was equally as impressive as his stablemate winning the Ming Dynasty Quality.

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Although Portelli has the utmost respect for In Secret and Golden Mile, the trainer is approaching the Golden Rose with the steadfast belief Fireburn and Sejardan have made the necessary improvement to be competitive.

“In Secret and Golden Mile will be very hard to beat,” Portelli said.

“I loved the way the filly (In Secret) won the other day. She was in the sweet spot during the run, was able to challenge them and was strong through the line.”

In Secret raced clear to win the Run To The Rose by nearly two lengths with Fireburn getting home for fifth and Sejardan in seventh placing.

“I knew going into the first corner we weren’t going to win,” Portelli said.

“It was just the way the race was unfolding, we were too far back to win – on sectional times it was going to be impossible.

“But Fireburn and Sejardan were entitled to run on strongly and they did. When you analyse the race, that was all we could hope for based on where they were in the run.”

Portelli pointed out Fireburn and Sejardan joined In Secret as the only runners in the Run To The Rose to break 34s for the final 600m of that race.

In Secret zoomed home in 33.47s to win convincingly while Fireburn ran the same sectional in 33.65s and Sejardan finished off in 33.75s.

“My filly, Fireburn, matched sectionals with In Secret,” Portelli said.

“Fireburn was basically five lengths off her at the 600m and finished within three lengths of her at the winning post.

“If Fireburn and In Secret are beside each other at the furlong (a200m) on Saturday it will be interesting.”

Portelli also noted that Fireburn and Sejardan were first-up in the Run To The Rose while most of their rivals including In Secret had the benefit of recent racing.

“Now that my two have had that run under their belts, their fitness is good and they will be strong when we need them,” Portelli said.

“They have had the run they needed to have. They are going into a Group 1 now and neither horse was knocked around by that run, that’s for sure.

“I’m confident one or both of our horses will run big races in the Golden Rose.”

Portelli said both three-year-olds completed their Golden Rose preparations with strong workouts on the Warwick Farm course proper on Tuesday morning.

“Sejardan worked with Thinking Rain and made a mess of her, running 10.3s for the final furlong (a200m),” the trainer said.

“He had a good blow after the gallop and is ready to run well.

“I decided to work Fireburn with a maiden just to give her a ‘kill’ as I wanted to get her mentally there for the weekend. She did win the gallop, her recovery was good, and I’m happy with her fitness levels.

“Both horses are I good shape, I think the colt has improvement but she is cherry ripe. If the rain comes that brings her right into calculations.”

Fireburn was the champion juvenile of her generation and won the Golden Slipper and ATC Sires Produce Stakes on heavy tracks in autumn.

With rain forecast over the next 24 hours, Fireburn is likely to get suitable track conditions with the Rosehill surface already in the soft range.

Portelli said the Golden Rose is the “fork in the road” for both Fireburn and Sejardan this spring.

Fireburn needs to win the Golden Rose to stay in contention for the richest bonus in world racing.

If Fireburn can complete the Golden Slipper-Golden Rose double she will be in line for a massive $5 million bonus if she can return next year and win the Golden Eagle (1500m).

The Golden Slipper-Golden Rose-Golden Eagle treble is known as the “Golden Slam” and the $5 million bonus for any horse that can win the treble is an indication of the enormity of the challenge.

No horse has won the three races yet with the Golden Eagle only being introduced three years ago.

But Saturday marks the 20th renewal of the Golden Rose and the only Golden Slipper winner to train on and win the double was also a filly, Forensics in 2008.

Of course, Forensic completed the Golden Slipper-Golden Rose double when the second leg was switched from spring to autumn due to the 2007 equine influenza outbreak.

Portelli is mindful of the current prizemoney boom in Sydney and Australian racing and wants to give Fireburn and Sejardan every chance to maximise their earning potential by having lengthy race careers.

“You have to look at the big picture with horses now, it is not just about what is immediately in front of you,” Portelli said.

“There is so much down the track for them in the autumn and then so much prizemoney to be won as four-year-olds. It’s all about longevity.”

Whether Fireburn races on this spring will be determined by her Golden Rose performance with some speculation the filly could come into consideration for a start in The Everest if she raced up to expectations on Saturday, particularly given the likelihood Sydney will have a wet spring.

Sejardan, winner of the Breeders’ Plate, Golden Gift and Todman Stakes last season, is likely to stretch out in distance after the Golden Rose.

Portelli is keeping his options open with the talented colt who is in the market for races like the Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and Spring Champion Stakes (2000m).

Originally published as Trainer Gary Portelli has Fireburn and Sejardan primed for the Golden Rose at Rosehill on Saturday