Pepperano, a chance in Saturday's Magic Millions QTIS Open event, returns to scale after winning the Off The Track Subzero Handicap on Oaks Day at Flemington on November 3 last year.
Pepperano, a chance in Saturday's Magic Millions QTIS Open event, returns to scale after winning the Off The Track Subzero Handicap on Oaks Day at Flemington on November 3 last year. Quinn Rooney

Birchley hoping for some magic at Gold Coast

MAGIC Millions Day has been cruel and kind for astute conditioner Liam Birchley, who will build on his remarkable record of representation at the rich Gold Coast meeting on Saturday.

Despite purchasing only a "handful” of horses each year, Birchley has been able to qualify a youngster for the 2YO Classic in 13 of the past 14 years.

He came close to victory with Paprika in 2009 and then notched further placings with Missy Longstocking (2013), Ruby Soho (2014) and Pepperano (2015).

The day's feature may have proven elusive but Birchley has enjoyed other MM success, winning the Trophy with Pepperwood in 2009 and the sprint with Shamrock Slipper (2013) and Helter Skelter (2007).

While another placing in the 2YO Classic is considered a long shot with Real Princess, Birchley's best hopes of adding to his MM tally rest with Pepperano and Havasay in the QTIS Open event.

With no Buffering in the race this year, the race has opened up and Birchley feels the pattern of the day will determine which one is better suited.

Pepperano will be on the speed and Havasay will try to round them up, although from a kinder draw, Birchley is hoping the latter could settle midfield on Saturday.

"The only reason that he has been going back is because of the wide gates,” he said.

"Pepperano is well placed getting in on the limit.

"She had about 10 days in the paddock, then a couple of weeks on the water-walker (after Melbourne). She goes really good fresh and that's why I purposely ran her three weeks before this rather than waiting a week later for the stakes race.”

Fellow Queensland trainer Barry Lockwood believes his star mare Hidden Pearl is back to her best following a frustrating year plagued by injury.

The six-year-old mare produced a track record at Eagle Farm on New Year's Eve first-up, but she faces much tougher competition in the MM Sprint on Saturday.

"I thought her win the other day was as good for her first listed win and hopefully she's improved just enough to get her over the line on Saturday,” Lockwood said.

"She's quite capable of running 34 (second) sectionals over 1200m which she's done before - two lots of 34 is pretty slippery work.”

Lockwood said he believed Hidden Peal would use natural early speed to jump from barrier six in front and control the speed of the race.



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