A Melbourne Cup favourite, nine-time Group 1 winning mare and the reigning Cox Plate hero? Saturday’s Group 1 $1 million Turnbull Stakes (2000m) has all the makings of one of the spring’s best races as a star-studded field prepares to face off at HQ.
There may only be 10 horses in this year’s Turnbull Stakes field at Flemington, but punters are preparing for a thriller in the weight-for-age feature where Chris Waller’s defending champion Verry Elleegant is favourite.
The mighty Zed mare is at $2.35 in Turnbull Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au to emulate her former champion stablemate Winx (2017-18) in securing back-to-back editions of the race.
Caulfield Cup champion last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, Verry Elleegant presents fit third-up heading south this weekend on the back of a determined last-start win in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on September 18.
Jockey James McDonald is replaced by Damian Lane in Melbourne in the Turnbull and the well-supported duo are set to jump from barrier five with Cox Plate-bound Verry Elleegant a huge hope to take her Group 1 tally into double-figures.
Waller made the decision earlier in the week to withdraw the $9 million earner from the Group 2 $1 million Hill Stakes (2000m) in Sydney in favour of the Turnbull setting up for a mouth-watering clash.
“We have decided that Verry Elleegant will run at Flemington on Saturday in the Turnbull Stakes giving her the chance to settle in, and Damian Lane the chance to ride her ahead of the Cox Plate,” Chris Waller Racing announced on Twitter.
Lane is locked in to partner Verry Elleegant in this year’s Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at The Vally on October 23 with McDonald opting to partner the Annabel Neasham-trained favourite Zaaki.
The danger occupying the second line of Turnbull Stakes betting meanwhile is Peter Moody’s super stayer Incentivise in gate six with Brett Prebble continuing associations with the former Queenslander.
A 12-length romp home in Brisbane’s Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup (2400m) put the son of Shamus Award straight to the top of all-in markets for the Spring Cups and he franked that form fresh in Melbourne on September 11.
Incentivise resumed over the Flemington mile and ran out of his skin to defeat the last start Winx Stakes winner Mo’unga by a quarter-length in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
With bigger assignments to come, the five-year-old is only going to improve off that and will be better over 2000m in the Turnbull and will relish the give in the ground being undefeated (3 from 3) on Soft tracks.
The value? Sir Dragonet was also an eye-catcher last time out with the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Irish expat finishing off extremely well for a first-up third in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
He went around at 30/1 there and is also set to take improvement out of the return, the reigning Cox Plate champion after his first victory since saluting by 2.3 lengths at Rosehill in April’s Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m).
Sir Dragonet is at $8.50 through Ladbrokes.com.au to stop the dominant duo, while the Godolphin-raced Golden Eagle champion Colette ($8) is the other single-figure hopeful.
A proven mudlark, the James Cummings-trained Hallowed Crown mare is unbeaten on Heavy going and so is being kept safe with the potential of a very wet track on Turnbull Stakes Day.
Her position in the field however is far from guaranteed with the five-year-old having to undergo veterinary examination at 4:00pm this afternoon after developing a foot abscess in her off fore.
The 2021 Turnbull Stakes is scheduled to run as Flemington Race 7 at 3:45pm (AEST) on Saturday’s nine-race card.