Group 1 racing returns this weekend with Caulfield host to the $500,000 Neds C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) where resuming Ladbrokes Cox Plate hero Sir Dragonet is the well-supported favourite.
Nine weight-for-age hopefuls remain in contention for this season’s C.F. Orr Stakes title after the early withdrawal of Fifty Stars from the Lindsay Park stable.
Markets on the event are firmly led by the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained European import, class Camelot entire Sir Dragonet.
The Irish-bred five-year-old was the star of the spring saluting in the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley when making his debut down under.
The galloper was then far from disgraced second-up in the iconic Group 1 $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) finishing a credible sixth at Flemington over the testing two miles.
Saturday marks his return to racing and after a winning Geelong trial from January 28, the star looks fit and ready to fire fresh from barrier three with Glen Boss back in the saddle.
Questions over how Sir Dragonet will perform first-up at 1400m will be answered on Saturday as the top elect continues towards the $5 million The All-Star Mile (1600m) back at the home of his Cox Plate triumph next month.
The horse is yet to start over any less 2000m, but Maher & Eustace are hoping his elite breeding will be enough to see him secure the Group 1 under a mile and further boost his future value at stud.
The other concern for Saturday’s C.F. Orr Stakes favourite is the track conditions at Caulfield.
Currently the course proper is rated a Good (4) and the stable have confirmed they are willing to scratch the galloper if the conditions are too firm come race morning.
“The only way he’s going to run is if he gets conditions to suit,” Boss told Racenet this week.
“He has to get the conditions. If we get a Good (3), he won’t be running.”
Boss is unconcerned either way, knowing that the best is yet to come with the Cox Plate champion who is also heading towards Sydney’s Group 1 $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in April.
“It doesn’t matter to me because eventually he’s going to run in two races with nine million bucks then he’s going to be back here (in Melbourne) in the spring,” Boss said.
“He was only going to have a light autumn, with the All-Star Mile and the Queen Elizabeth, then he was going to get ready for next year’s Cox Plate because he’s going to be around a bit longer.”
Lindsay Park’s gun three-year-old Crosshaven ($3.80) racing first-up and last start Group 2 Australia Stakes winner at Moonee Valley Streets Of Avalon ($7.50) are among the other key C.F. Orr Stakes hopefuls in the markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.