Port Guillaume on right track
JD Hayes believes Saturday's running of The Bart Cummings is a 'winnable race' for French import Port Guillaume.
The five-year-old caught the eye closing off at his previous start in the Naturalism Stakes, which was just his second run in Australia.
"It was a massive step in the right direction last start when he got up to a suitable trip, and I think 2500m will suit him even more," said Hayes, who trains in partnership with his brother Ben.
"Everything at work in the mornings that we've seen, he's taken nice improvement, and looking forward to seeing him on Saturday."
On Friday afternoon Flemington was rated a Soft 6, and if more rain was to fall, it wouldn't be a concern for Hayes.
"The rain about is only a plus for him, he loves the wet weather, everything seems to be falling into place for this horse, so hopefully it keeps going that way," he said.
Port Guillaume is currently 39th in the order of entry for the Melbourne Cup, with the winner of The Bart Cummings guaranteed a spot in the great race.
Saturday's assignment will be the Le Havre gelding's first race start on the expansive Flemington course and he's been allocated stall 12.
"He's not the biggest horse, but he's got a big stride, and from that barrier I think he'll be three wide with a bit of cover and be able to blend into the race nicely," Hayes said.
Prior to coming to Australia, Port Guillaume won at Group 2 level in France, while he also finished fifth behind international superstar Mishriff in last year's French Derby.
Like many European imports, Hayes said that he and the Lindsay Park team have taken their time with him since he joined the stable.
"He came over and he was a little bit stiff and sore, he had a bit of bone bruising, so we did a really good pre-loading block, turned him out of work, brought him back in and did an extended build-up, so he's got a very good foundation under his belt, and we're sort of reaping the benefits of it now," he said.
"He's as sound as a pound in the mornings now, and he seems to be going from strength to strength."
Lindsay Park will also have two runners in the Paris Lane Stakes on Saturday, Aysar and Crosshaven.
Aysar heads into the event on the back of a game fourth placing in the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at his most recent start.
"He was very brave, he was on the hot tempo and kicked, he was right there till the last 100m and just got run over late, but it was a very brave effort," Hayes said.
"He actually came out of the run fresher than he was going into it, he's taken it in his stride, hence the reason why we thought we'd run him this week.
"It's a really good stepping stone for him into the Toorak (Handicap), he's mapped to get a good run, it looks like a lovely race, he's up in weight again, but he's deserving of carrying that weight."
The Deep Field entire was placed last spring in races like the Caulfield Guineas and Carbine Club Stakes, but at this stage his biggest win was in a Benchmark 64 at Sandown.
Hayes hopes that will change this preparation.
"He's starting to come to form now, ever since the Aurie's Star (Handicap), he's been building nicely," he said.
"We've got him to peak this time of the year and he's the sort of horse, like Port Guillaume, everything seems to be falling into place at the right time."
As for his stablemate Crosshaven, who beat him in the Carbine Club Stakes, Hayes said that there were excuses for his unplaced effort at Flemington at his most recent outing.
"He set a fast tempo and just felt the pinch last time here at Flemington," he said.
"He's had a nice three weeks between runs, got him back to the farm, changed his environment, got his head down out in the day paddocks and we were able to get two good pieces of work into him.
"His coat's starting to move, he's taken a lot of improvement and I think you'll find an improved run from him.
"The winkers go on, which will help him concentrate."
When asked to split the pair, Hayes favoured Aysar.
"Aysar's definitely the pick in the market, these two have found each other in races before and they've been hard to split, but with a few more races under his belt, I think Aysar, he's more at his top and Crosshaven still has a bit more improvement in him," he said.
Saturday's action at Flemington sees the mercury raised a notch for the Spring Racing Carnival.
For Hayes, it will be the first time that he and Ben have been at the helm of Lindsay Park during racing's prime season.
The stable was the most successful operation at last year's Melbourne Cup Carnival and Hayes hopes that could happen again this year.
"We're shaping to have quite a nice hand Cup week, so hopefully we're able to keep it two years in a row, a good Cup week," he said.
Port Guillaume (Image: France Galop)