Saturday's De Bortoli Wines G1 Golden Rose S. may be the Grand Final for some of Australia's most precocious 3-year-olds, but for Hermitage Thoroughbreds and their star colt The Autumn Sun (Redoute's Choice), it's just another step in his racing education.
A win on Saturday would propel the value of any of the nine colts who will contest the race into the stratosphere with every colt to have won the race since it was elevated to a Group 1 currently standing at stud.
The Autumn Sun is already valuable in that regard having secured a Group 1 victory as a 2-year-old in the JJ Atkins S.
"We see it as a launching pad to be honest. We are not treating it as a Grand Final." Oliver Koolman on The Autumn Sun.
But it is his future career as a racehorse which is of greater concern to Hermitage's Managing Director Oliver Koolman, who is taking a low-key approach to Saturday's race.
"Whilst it’s a crucial Group 1 race, it’s not the end of his career. We see it as a launching pad to be honest. We are not treating it as a Grand Final," Koolman told TDN Aus/NZ.
"Sure there is going to be a couple of opponents where it is their Grand Final, but we are looking at the big picture and looking at the future."
"In a sense, the pressure is not there like you’d imagine. But the result would be quite rewarding if it comes up right."
If it does 'come up right', then Hermitage will have an interesting dilemma.
Koolman and trainer Chris Waller have always held ambitions for The Autumn Sun to be a 2019 ATC Derby contender, but a win over a group of star 3-year-olds on Saturday may complicate things.
"If he comes out and wins on Saturday, it is going to be a bit difficult to give him a Derby preparation." - Koolman
"In an ideal world, we’d like to target him towards an ATC Derby. We think he's a genuine 2000-2400m horse based on pedigree," Koolman said.
"What he's done so far has been an absolute bonus. If he comes out and wins on Saturday, it is going to be a bit difficult to give him a Derby preparation. He'll probably be worth a bit much too risk."
What Koolman does emphasise is that while commercial realities exist, the horse's racetrack performance is the current priority.
"We're just race by race, we are just doing the right thing by the horse's racing career at this stage," he said. "While we have to have a commercial head on our shoulders, we are planning for the horse's extended racing career."
Bad luck a good education
The Autumn Sun's return to the track in the G2 Stan Fox S. two weeks' ago saw him endure a chequered passage before charging late to finish third.
Again, with a mind on the horse's education, Koolman felt that it was excellent starting point for the horse as a 3-year-old.
"Kerrin (McEvoy - jockey) did the right thing by the animal, got him back, switched off, got among horses and showed that he was willing to do it," he said.
"If we were treating the race separately, Kerrin might have switched him to the outside and rode him more arrogantly, but we are about the longevity of a racing career at this particular point."
Having drawn barrier 10 on Saturday, Waller has applied blinkers to The Autumn Sun in a bid to sharpen him up.
"We have put the blinkers on to try and give a bit of tactical speed from the barriers. As the draw has worked out, he probably doesn’t need that," Waller said.
"He'll appreciate getting on a better track on Saturday I'm not too concerned about the draw at all. He's a horse who will appreciate a bit of room. He's got an amazing stride on him."
"These colts are like a young boy in high school." - Koolman
Koolman believes the one-time application of the blinkers could be key to getting The Autumn Sun in the right mindset to win a top-class race short of what looks his best distance.
"Kerrin just felt if we put the blinkers on, it might only be for the one run, to get him to switch on and travel a bit more interested. He takes everything in his stride and he's a bit complacent sometimes," he said.
"These colts are like a young boy in high school. They don’t concentrate on the Maths and English and they do on the playground."
Koolman is certainly wary of The Autumn Sun's rivals, which include the stablemates Zousain (Zoustar) and Lean Mean Machine (Zoustar) as well as the Kris Lees trained Graff (Star Witness).
"It's going to be a pretty good edition of the race. We just hope that there's some real tempo in it so we can ride the horse the way he ought to be ridden and that's to switch off and make his run late," he said.
Waller finds it hard to split his three contenders, with perhaps a slight leaning to The Autumn Sun, who says will be 'very hard to beat'.
"We're blessed to have three very good colts and looking forward to seeing them race," he said.