Bel Esprit ready to win, says trainer
February 22 2002
Trainer John Symons reported yesterday that hot favorite Bel Esprit was “spoiling for a fight” in tomorrow’s Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield.
In his biggest test in 15 years as a trainer, Symons believes he could not have a horse better prepared for any race, let alone a $1 million group one event.
“I’m really feeling quite relaxed about it,” Symons said yesterday. “I know nothing is certain in racing but if Bel Esprit does get beaten, I don’t believe it will be for any reason other than he was up against a better horse on the day. There’s nothing more I could have done with him. He’s had a perfect preparation and drawing an inside barrier is an added bonus.”
Bel Esprit has barrier three in the field of 16 after an amazing sequence of outside draws at his previous four starts. The colt had barrier seven in a field of eight, winning by four lengths, at his first start at Moonee Valley last spring, then the outside barrier in fields of eight, eight and 11 at his subsequent three starts for equally impressive wins.
“Drawing well just gives Smokey (jockey Wayne Treloar) an extra option,” Symons said.
“It means that if something does come from the outside and wants to lead, he can let it go and sit just behind. But Bel Esprit has got such a high cruising speed, I don’t expect he’ll be any worse than third or fourth in the run, whatever happens.”
Symons said the Royal Academy colt had to have pacemakers whenever he galloped because he was just too fast for them.
“I know some people have been trying to punch holes in him but I honestly believe he’s as foolproof a horse you could have for a race like the Blue Diamond,” Symons said.
As for Bel Esprit’s behaviour at the barrier, which earned a warning from the stewards at his last start, Symons said the colt was “just being playful”.
“It was a bad day with the rain and everything and he was the last horse to go in but as soon as they put a lead strap on him, he was OK. He’s not a stupid horse, just a bit arrogant.”
Bookmaker Michael Eskander, who stands to lose more than $400,000 in straight-out bets and in doubles with Cadbury Guineas winner Dash For Cash if Bel Esprit wins, said yesterday he was still prepared to gamble against the colt.
Eskander said the 1200 metres was the unknown factor for Bel Esprit and he had eased his quote from $1.85 to $1.90 after the final declarations.
“I would be surprised if he doesn’t get into black figures (odds against) on the course.”
Eskander said many punters wanted to “bet around” Bel Esprit and his own fancy in the race was filly Brief Embrace.
In latest betting, Pillaging and Delago Brom share the second line at $8, ahead of Brief Embrace and Cool Trent at $10, with Sparpower and Bardego, who drew the outside barrier, at $13.