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HvasstanWhen he gets on a roll Peter Gelagotis can sound as much like a politician as a horse trainer.
The difference is, his enthusiasm is thoroughly genuine.
And when he talks about the star of his stable, Hvasstan, that enthusiasm is matched by respect, concern and admiration for a horse that, to a large extent, he and his brother Manny staked their racing lives on. The Gelagotis brothers paid $260,000 for Hvasstan as a yearling, much more than they had ever previously spent on a horse.
"We stuck our necks out, we had to find owners for him, but we liked him that much," Gelagotis said.
The risk proved well worth it as Hvasstan developed into one of the best staying three-year-olds of last spring, winning the Norman Robinson Stakes at Caulfield with a performance that reduced his trainer to tears and then running well without luck in the Victoria Derby.
And as he prepares for what will be a brief autumn campaign, Hvasstan has already delivered a couple of pleasant surprises.
"I can tell you, we are very, very happy with him," Gelagotis said.
"He went round in a private trial at Cranbourne last week and I was impressed - and so was Glen Boss who rode him."
Gelagotis said he'd been prepared for a more pedestrian effort from a horse he thought may have been slightly behind in his preparation.
"I initially thought we might have been chasing our tails a bit. But I'm not thinking that now," he said.
"He pulled up like he never went around."
The significance of having Hvasstan more forward than he thought gives Gelagotis all the options he'd hoped for coming into an autumn that is more about preparing the colt for next spring than putting him to the supreme test.
"What it means is that I don't have to hammer him," he said.
"We're in the best place we can be, I can choose the program that suits him best."
A precise schedule is still to be decided, but Hvasstan will resume in either the Group Two Autumn Stakes at Caulfield on February 9 or if the horse needs another week, the Group Three CS Hayes Stakes at Flemington.
Hvasstan's main aim for the autumn is the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 2.
"That's a race that would help establish him as a stallion," Gelagotis said.
"But he'll go where it suits him best, that's how it'll always be."
And if his trainer thinks it's in his horse's best interests, that might mean a trip to Sydney for the Rosehill Guineas.