CAULFIELD trainer Mick Price had planned to be in Sydney tomorrow for the first $1 million race of the new season, but instead he travels the short journey across town to Moonee Valley for what may ultimately prove an equally lucrative trip.
Price has his mainstay, Heart Of Dreams, ready for the group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. But it is earlier in the program that he hopes a replacement for his injured headliner Samaready could emerge in the shape of fellow three-year-old filly Malasun, who contests the Boscastle Plate over 1200 metres.
''We've got high hopes for her and you'll see a pretty nice filly out there on Saturday,'' Price said yesterday. ''If she can impress on Saturday and be kept to 1200 metres for a race like the Champagne Stakes, she can then go into the group 1 [Coolmore Classic] on Victoria Derby day.''
Samaready had been targeted for the $1 million Golden Rose at Rosehill tomorrow, but will not be seen again until the autumn after failing to flatter early in her preparation.
Malasun looks a little out of place tomorrow, despite lining up against fillies. She is one of just three of the race's 14 runners not entered for the season's first fillies' classic, the Thousand Guineas over 1600 metres at Caulfield next month. ''We wanted to keep her to 1200 metres this time around because I just think a mile [1600 metres] might bust her at this stage of her career,'' Price said.
''She's a good sprinting filly who has improved physically from her first prep and she's been going really well. I think she might get a mile in the autumn but she'll be kept to sprinting for the time being.''
Malasun was, for a time, the favourite for last autumn's $1 million Blue Diamond Stakes, won by Samaready. But she was already in the paddock by the time the group 1 race was run, after quickly coming to the end of her preparation with a lacklustre effort in the Blue Diamond Prelude.
In-form jockey Michael Walker will have his first ride on Heart Of Dreams, who is one of the few proven weight-for-age gallopers chasing the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. He replaces regular rider Craig Newitt, who had opted to ride Chase The Rainbow in the race until that grey galloper injured a shoulder during the week.
''Heart Of Dreams should be pretty close now with two runs after nearly a year off,'' Price said. ''He drew out and went forward second-up [in the Memsie Stakes] and had to do it both ends, but I was happy enough with the way he battled it out. He's finally drawn a barrier [four], so I'd expect him to go close.''
Heart Of Dreams was last night rated a $10 chance to claim the race, with last year's winner Rekindled Interest and the imported Green Moon sharing favouritism.
Price's hopes were initially high for a winning return for his consistent sprinter Stratcombe in the McEwen Stakes tomorrow, but the trainer is now wary of the favoured pair Bel Sprinter and Golden Archer.
''It's his first test at weight-for-age but the small field suits and he won a trial in the quickest time of the morning here last week,'' he said.
Trainer John Sadler takes Linton to the Dato Tan Chin Nam for his first-up run and is hopeful he can turn around his fortunes, after group 2-winning mare Sister Madly pulled up sore at Flemington after trackwork yesterday and was retired.