Michael Hawkes is beginning to win the mind games with Ninth Legion after the colt had his manhood taken to make him a racehorse.
The four-year-old had always been full of talent but finding a way to release it had been a challenge. This preparation has been the first since he was gelded and the confidence gained from winning has Team Hawkes lining him up for a shot at the Villiers Stakes via Saturday's Festival Stakes at Rosehill.
"While he was still a colt he was running nice races without winning," said Hawkes, who trains in partnership with his Hall of Fame father, John, and brother Wayne.
"The talent has always been there. He is a son of Fastnet Rock and everyone wants to think they have a stallion [prospect], but you need to be winning and be a racehorse before you're a stallion.
"The owners were happy to make the hard decision to geld him and it looks like it has made him a racehorse, but we are still playing mind games with him."
Ninth Legion was slowly away and stuck to the inside when beaten 3½ lengths in Famous Seamus' Lightning Handicap on October 19 before going down narrowly to Tromso at Hawkesbury. He broke through at Rosehill two weeks ago, showing a sharp turn of foot to beat Said Com and Soledad.
"All his runs have been good this time in," Hawkes said. "He doesn't like being inside horses and he came through on the fence first-up and did a good enough job.
"He was probably a bit close when [Tromso] fought back to beat him. So last start we rode him where he was happy and tried to get in his head a bit and he won, which was a boost to his confidence."
Hence Hawkes is expecting Ninth Legion, which ran fourth in a Golden Rose and was runner-up to Toydini in the Phar Lap Stakes as a three-year-old, to measure up to listed company over 1500 metres on Saturday.
"He probably felt as if he won at Hawkesbury and he was good last start and got that confidence. This is the right race at the right time. He has drawn a gate [in barrier four] and we will let him get comfortable in the run and hope he can show his best."
Team Hawkes has promising filly Maysoon in the first at Rosehill as she seeks a hat-trick of wins at her fourth start. Her latest win at Canterbury showed she was ready for Saturday class.
"She meets a couple of handy ones, including Suit, but she did it at both ends at her last run even though it didn't look like it," Hawkes said. "I'm sure she will run a good race."
In the last, Hawkes was gutted by the gate 15 draw for first-up specialist Mecir, which has been scratched because of bad draws recently. "It is a disgrace. He has drawn barrier 15 three times in a row."