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Kiwi sensation and 2011 Cox Plate hopeful Jimmy Choux will face one of their toughest career tests to date this Saturday when they take on the likes of Melbourne Cup-bound mare Scarlett Lady in the Group 1 Challenge Stakes (1400m) in New Zealand.
Prepared by respected horseman John Bary at Hastings, four-year-old Thorn Park stallion Jimmy Choux is one of the top fancies for the 2011 Challenge Stakes at Hawke’s Bay as he resumes racing following a successful autumn campaign.
A winner of 10 of his 18 starts to date, Jimmy Choux has already won a trio of elite level races including the NZ 2000 Guineas and New Zealand Derby.
Following their NZ Derby success in March, Bary bought Jimmy Choux down under and in their Australian debut the then three-year-old defeated a crack field in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
Jimmy Choux backed up a fortnight later to contest the Group 1 AJC Australian Derby (2400m) but they only managed to finish 12 lengths away sixth behind Danny O’Brien’s champion filly Shamrocker, who had earlier run third to Jimmy Choux in the Rosehill Guineas.
While Shamrocker kicks off her 2011 Melbourne Cup campaign this Saturday in the Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, Jimmy Choux will take the first steps towards his major Melbourne Spring Carnival assignment – the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22 – at home in New Zealand before travelling back across the Tasman later this season.
Jimmy Choux may be a triple Group 1 winner, but the Challenge Stakes is set to be just that, a major challenge.
Among Jimmy Choux’s challengers on Saturday are the likes of Victorian Derby winner Lion Tamer, Emirates Stakes champion Wall Street and of course the biggest danger of them all, Queensland Oaks winner Scarlett Lady.
Despite the imposing record of Graeme Rogerson’s Savabeel mare Scarlett Lady, Bary isn’t backing down and remains bullish over the first-up chances of Jimmy Choux.
“By all accounts, Graeme Rogerson has claimed Scarlett Lady is the best horse in New Zealand,” Bary said.
“We will see how good Rogie’s judgment is.
“Jimmy Choux is right where I want him.
“He’s grown, he’s about 16.2 (hands) now and he’s put on a few more kilos.
“He’s had a nice long three months of good slow work getting him to where I want him to be.”
Having come back in excellent order, the only concern Bary has of Jimmy Choux going fresh into the Challenge Stakes is the fact that he missed a crucial hitout that was cancelled due to the weather last week.
“He missed a trial because they cancelled them, which is the only worry, but we’ve got enough gallops into him and I think he has the class factor,” Bary said.
It is this class that Bary believes will see Jimmy Choux get up over his rivals on the weekend.
“He might only need to be 90 to 95 per cent (fit) to beat that field,” he said.
“Class takes you a long way.”
Scarlett Lady is not without class either, but the 1400 metre distance of the Challenge Stakes is likely to be the deciding factor on Saturday.
Jimmy Choux is a proven Group performer at the distance.
Scarlett Lady, on the other hand, is likely to find the Challenge Stakes a little short for her liking, despite having won first-up over the distance back in March.
Still, Rogerson is tipping his runner to have enough speed to give Jimmy Choux “a bit at the finish” on the weekend before she too heads to Australia for the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Currently Jimmy Choux sits as the $15 third-favourite in the Cox Plate 2011 odds at Luxbet, a race he is likely to contest just third-up for the season after Bary indicated he may give the horse just one more start before the lucrative weight-for-age showdown.
“If he blows like hell (after the Challenge Stakes) and I think he needs another run we can always run in the Windsor Plate (September 17), but if I’m happy he might just have an exhibition gallop that day and then go straight into the Group 1 Spring Classic on October 1 before we go to Australia,” Bary explained.
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