Craig Newitt is confident Pompeii Ruler is "cherry ripe" for Saturday's Yalumba Stakes at Caulfield following four lead-up runs this preparation.
The Genuine six-year-old had a break of more than a year due to a suspensory injury and trainer Mick Price has been reluctant to push the 2007 Australian Cup winner on the track, preferring to race him into peak condition.
The gelding has had only five race starts in the 18 months since he ran midfield to Japanese galloper Admire Moon in the Dubai Duty Free (1777m) in March last year.
But his latest effort when fourth to Littorio in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last Saturday suggested he wasn't far away.
"He always takes one or two runs to hit his top, especially after 18 months off," Newitt said.
"He's probably taken that extra one or two runs.
"The other day (in the Turnbull) over the last furlong (200m) he just ran out of gas again.
"But I think he'll be cherry ripe for this race."
Pompeii Ruler is a four-time weight-for-age winner and in 2006 was touched off on the line in the Yalumba by Casual Pass who is among his seven rivals in Saturday's 2000m feature.
At his next start he led well into the short Moonee Valley straight before finishing third to Fields Of Omagh and El Segundo in the Cox Plate (2040m).
Newitt knows Pompeii Ruler very well having ridden him in 12 of his 18 starts for four of his seven wins.
"He is a terrific weight-for-age horse. He puts himself into the right spot, has a great turn of foot on him, is very genuine and I think this race will be a nice stepping-stone into the Cox Plate."
Pompeii Ruler is $2.30 favourite with Betstar ahead of the David Hayes-trained Guillotine ($5) who Craig Williams picked as his mount ahead of stablemate Largo Lad ($13) who will be handled by Nash Rawiller.
Reigning Australian Cup winner Sirmione ($5.50) will be ridden for only the second time in a race by Damien Oliver on Saturday, replacing Peter Mertens.
Oliver's only ride on the Bart Cummings-trained gelding was when he ran second last to Yalumba rival Douro Valley in last year's Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield.
The Encosta De Lago five-year-old will appreciate the rise in distance after his second-up eighth to Guillotine in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 13.
While Sirmione is headed towards the Cox Plate, stablemate and reigning Brisbane Cup winner Viewed ($21), to be ridden by Blake Shinn, is scheduled to back up in Saturday week's Caulfield Cup (2400m) for which he is a borderline case to gain a start.
The Yalumba winner is exempt from the Caulfield Cup ballot.
By Mark Ryan
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