Polanski is a horse who has already generated headlines for the wrong reason. Photo: Pat Scala
Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington is traditionally regarded as a crucial meeting for Cups and Cox Plate contenders, a fixture where pretenders can have their limitations exposed and genuine chances emerge from nowhere before going on to glory in the following month.
But it's not just the older gallopers who get the chance to state their case for a spot on the main carnival stage. For the emerging three-year-old colts and geldings, it's an opportunity to prove themselves as potential stayers in the 1800 metre UCI Stakes, a race which gives them a chance to show whether they can measure up in the 2500 metre Victoria Derby in four weeks' time.
And trainer Robbie Laing is now hoping that his colt Polanski, a cheaply-bought son of a stallion with ''temperamental issues", might just have enough of his deceased dad's mongrel in him to take out one of the most famous races on the Australian calendar following his success in Saturday's renewal of the race.
Polanski is a horse who has already generated headlines for the wrong reason after a disqualification following a positive swab when he won over 1600 metres at Caulfield as a late two-year-old, costing his trainer a $3000 fine.
Now Laing is hoping that in a month's time he will be front and centre for the right reason, showing that he can prepare a classic youngster just as well as he can groom a horse to win at marathon trips over hurdles and fences, for which he is probably better known.
The son of Rakti cost only $4000 as a yearling, proving that a good horse is truly within anyone's grasp if luck is on their side.
For a trainer in Laing's position, who doesn't have the expensive yearlings that so many of his rivals do and the bulk of whose winners come on the provincial circuit, losing an $80,000 race at Caulfield (which also carried a further $50,000 in bonuses) is like a kick in the guts.
Naturally, he was delighted on Saturday when Polanski was able to kick on 600 metres from home under Dean Yendall and keep going to the line in the $121,000 UCI to at least redress some of the balance.
The fact that Polanski remains a colt at all is a reflection of Laing's willingness to try something different. The Cranbourne-based handler is no stranger to thinking outside the square: after all, he prepared Sir Pentire to win the 2009 running of Australia's longest race, the 5500-metre Grand Annual Steeple at Warrnambool, first up after an absence of more than two years from the track.
Sons of Rakti have a reputation for being a bit difficult and tempramental, but Laing resisted the temptation to geld his cheaply bought horse straight away, reasoning that if those traits made the stallion such a good horse (Rakti won six times at group one level in Europe from 1600 metres to 2200 metres) then maybe they might help his progeny. He also just wanted to see what would happen if he didn't do the obvious thing.
''Rakti was a great horse but around the traps everyone said they (his progeny) were dills and hard to handle,'' he explains.
''Polanski's mother (Citrium) was the dam of two to race, both of whom had won in town. The mare is a full sister to Ballroom Babe, a champion filly in NZ. If I hadn't bid on him, someone would have got him for $2000.
''He had a lovely shoulder on him, he was a good walker, and I was always wanting to get a Rakti and experiment by leaving one of them a colt. Because of their bad manners everyone was quick to geld them and this horse has probably got the same traits as his old man. He bites and kicks a bit, but maybe that's why Rakti was good.
''I just decided we are not cutting this horse, not for breeding reasons but to see what happens if we leave him a bit headstrong.''
Laing has always been aware that the colt has had ability.
''He's always shown us. I told one of the blokes who I was trying to convince to go in him for a thousand dollars, when I parade this horse if I told you it was a quarter of a million dollar yearling by Zabeel you wouldn't doubt me. Once we tidied him up broke him in, he was a cracking type.''
Polanski is likely to meet a number of Saturday's rivals in both the 2000 metres Norman Robinson at Caulfield in 12 days time and the Derby, with connections of Saturday's runner up, Epic Saga, looking to a step up in distance to help them too.
By a Blue Diamond winner and a victor first time out as a two-year-old over 1100 metres, the Ellerton/Zahra trained Epic Saga doesn't, on paper, look as though he should be a stayer, but he is certainly racing like one.
Simon Zahra, one of the training partners, says the gelding is still learning after seven starts. ''He's still hitting a flat spot mid race and that's probably costing him at the moment. He loses his action and panics a bit, but once he's hitting momentum he's hitting the line strong. If he gets through the Robinson safe and sound and is showing no ill effects we will go to the Derby.''