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Portelli hopes work on Picaro’s start will stop him going rogue

Plenty of work has gone into getting the early part of Picaro’s races right and trainer Gary Portelli hopes the fruits of it will show at the finish at Kensington today.

Portelli sees the next month as crucial to the five-year-old’s earning potential and a midweek win, in a race like the Heineken Handicap (1800m), is an important stepping stone to a shot at Saturday prizemoney before it’s out of his range as spring approaches.

Gary Portelli at his Warwick Farm stables.

Gary Portelli at his Warwick Farm stables.Credit:James Brickwood

Between his first and second-up runs, Portelli sent Picaro back to barrier school and he was encouraged by what he saw last start when the gelding finished a close fourth at Warwick Farm over a mile.

“We have done a bit of barrier education on this horse and we’d expect to be a little bit closer than usual,” Portelli said. “He wouldn’t come out of the gates, he wouldn’t begin. It was like he had something wrong with him.

“We tried a lot of things to loosen him up. We had him at the gates one day with one of my better riders and sooled him out hard, roared at him and chased him, and next start he jumped beautifully.

“We won’t be contesting the lead but we won’t be spotting them 10.”

Picaro hasn’t won for just over 12 months but that victory was, significantly, over 1800 metres on the Kensington track on a rain affected surface.

Portelli said it’s the perfect race for him to produce the best run of the preparation and, if he does that, to chase a bigger payday.

“We thought he might make a Saturday horse in the winter so the next month is critical for us,” he said.

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