Fireburn the best horse by a long way: Portelli

On the cusp of capturing a slice of triple crown history, Gary Portelli admits he came into the autumn thinking he might have the horse to clean-sweep the two-year-old features.

He was a little bit right and a little bit wrong.

Portelli’s juvenile triple crown aspirations were for Breeders’ Plate winner Sejardan, but it has been unassuming stablemate Fireburn who has snuck under everybody’s guard.

“Early on, he was the pea. She has just been smoking along in the background,” Portelli said.

Since her luckless fourth in midweek grade on debut, Fireburn hasn’t put a foot wrong, stringing together five victories in succession.

She was almost knocked off her feet in the Golden Slipper (1200m) but regrouped to score a spectacular win and again unleashed a withering burst of acceleration to emphatically claim the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).

If she can extend that brilliance to 1600m in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes, she will become the only filly outside Burst (1992) to snare the coveted two-year-old triple crown.

In Portelli’s mind, there is no doubt Fireburn will be winning on Saturday.

“The only thing that can beat her is bad luck in running,” he said.

“I think she is the best horse by a long way.”

Neither the small field of six, nor a distance test concern the trainer.

He says Fireburn has enjoyed a “perfect week” and has the right mix of talent and temperament to join Baguette (1970), Luskin Star (1977), Tierce (1991), Burst (1992), Dance Hero (2004) and Pierro (2012) as juvenile triple crown winners.

“Her resilience and her ability to cope with the pressure of everything. Her relaxed nature and she’s got a bigger motor than most horses,” Portelli said when asked what sets Fireburn apart.

“I am just facilitating what she can do.

“She has got all the weaponry, I’ve just got to make sure she doesn’t fire it off at trackwork.”

Punters are confident Portelli will have his filly firing on race day and she is a $1.50 Champagne Stakes favourite.

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