After weighing up their options, the connections of reigning Victoria Derby winner Lion Tamer have opted to bypass the $200,000 Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield this Saturday and will tackle a tough field at home in the 2011 Challenge Stakes at Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.
Storming Home entire Lion Tamer, prepared by Murray Baker at Cambridge, last year enjoyed a sensational spring campaign in Australia that culminated with their barnstorming six and a half length success in the Group 1 Victoria Derby on a bog Flemington track in October.
Having been in the paddock for nine months due to an awkward cut to his hock, Lion Tamer had their first hit-out winning over 1200 metres at the start of the month back in New Zealand, showing Baker they were ready to return to race conditions.
“He had a gallop between races the other day and went great, and sat four and five wide before that in a trial and won it pretty easily,” Baker said.
“It’s a long time off the scene but we’ve given him a nice build-up to his return and he seems to be thriving.”
Originally Baker was considering an early trip to Melbourne with Lion Tamer to make their four-year-old debut down under in the Memsie Stakes.
However, a change of plans due to concerns over flights from NZ to AUS will see Lion Tamer take on the likes of Rosehill Guineas winner and 2011 Cox Plate candidate Jimmy Choux, Emirates Stakes winner from last spring Wall Street and early Caulfield – Melbourne Cups top elect Scarlett Lady in the NZ$200,000 Group 1 Challenge Stakes (1400m) on Saturday instead.
Following Saturday’s resuming run, Lion Tamer will travel across the Tasman to tackle the major spring showdowns of the Melbourne Carnival including the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22 and perhaps even the iconic $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday November 1.
“I’m very happy with him and can’t wait to get over there,” Baker said of Lion Tamer.
“He’s a stallion and he’s nice and strong and his action is fine, so it’s all systems go for the spring.”
For his first-up run in Melbourne Baker is tossing up between either the $300,000 Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 10 or the $350,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield the following Saturday, which is the run connections of Queensland Oaks winner Scarlett Lady have scheduled for her to contest first once arriving in Australia for a Melbourne Cup campaign.
“He’ll go from this first-up run to either the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes or the Underwood Stakes,” Baker confirmed.
“From there, I’d like to think he was good enough to run in both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Australia’s No. 1 online bookmaker Luxbet have Lion Tamer rated as a $17 chance in their Caulfield Cup betting odds while for the 2011 Cox Plate Lion Tamer is paying a very generous $41.
Meanwhile, there were 22 Memsie Stakes’ nominations taken on Monday with top-name entries including AJC Oaks winner Absolutely, Crown Oaks champion Brazilian Pulse, Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday and Australian Guineas – Derby double winner Shamrocker.
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