Gregory Hickman’s in-form five-year-old Eleven Eleven has shot to the top of the markets for Saturday’s Group 1 $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) following Tuesday evening’s all-important barrier draw.
A capacity field of winter hopefuls will take to the Eagle Farm track this weekend for Queensland’s richest race, Stradbroke Handicap betting at Ladbrokes.com.au now led by Eleven Eleven who came up trumps with barrier five for jockey Hugh Bowman.
January’s Magic Millions Cup winner is third-up and fit looking for his first Eagle Farm victory at his fourth start at the track.
He’s a three-time place-getter at the venue however following his eye-catching third last start when only a quarter-length beaten in the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m).
Eleven Eleven was at double figures that run, but won’t be found at the same price on Saturday having firmed into $6 in the latest Stradbroke Handicap odds online.
One-time favourite now out to $8, Ayrton meanwhile continues to ease in betting after the Mick Price & Michael Kent Junior-trained galloper suffered an early blow drawing barrier 19.
Jockey Jamie Kah is booked to ride the four-year-old son of Iffraaj who has won six of his nine career starts to date.
His latest win in mid-April saw him defeat Streets Of Avalon in Caulfield’s Group 3 Victoria Handicap (1400m), before things went amiss at the Gold Coast last time out.
Ayrton wouldn’t settle in the Group 2 A.D. Hollindale Stakes (1800m) pulling the entire trip before finishing eighth to Zaaki, and was found to be lame post-race.
He gets the chance to atone here, but will need luck from the gate.
Despite the size of this year’s Stradbroke Handicap field, no other runners are under double-figures to win with the next best in betting being the local Desleigh Forster-trained Apache Chase ($10).
Another of the big winners from the Stradbroke Handicap barrier draw, the last start Kingsford-Smith Cup champ jumps from gate three here with Jim Byrne retaining the ride.
Byrne gave the galloper a 10/10 ride to get him home first last start in an eye-catching all-the-way performance, however the step-up to 1400m here could be too far for Apache Chase who is out to be the first horse to complete the double in the same year since Thorn Park (2004).
Other notable Stradbroke horses in 2022 include: the Tony Gollan-trained mare Isotope ($11) to be ridden by William Pike from gate four, the now Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Alligator Blood ($12) drawn out in gate 21, and last start BRC Sprint winner Soxagon ($14) chasing a hat-trick.
Alligator Blood’s iconic co-trainer Waterhouse chases her 150th career Group 1 on the weekend and isn’t fazed by the wide alley for her headliner.
“I love wide gates, it’s not a problem to me,” Waterhouse told News Corp from London this week.
“I couldn’t tell you the races I’ve won coming from the outside barriers.
“Just recently you only have to look at a horse like Vancouver in the (2015) Golden Slipper – it didn’t stop him.
“Over the years I haven’t had many runners at all in the Stradbroke.
“By the time the Stradbroke comes around I’ve had a lot of my horses in the paddock getting ready for the spring.
“I would love to win it – dad (TJ Smith) of course made it one of his feature races.
“Even though I’m overseas there’s not a day goes by that I’m not on FaceTime talking about the progress of the horses or looking at photographs or talking with my stable.
“We train the horses a little bit differently, we give them time to have space and to really develop their personality and we feed our horses an old-fashioned type of way.
“They really do put on an enormous amount of weight and muscle.
“Most horses who come to us change dramatically and Alligator Blood is a perfect example.”
The Stradbroke Handicap 2022 is scheduled to run as Eagle Farm Race 8 at 3:53pm (AEST) on Saturday’s nine-race card.