The Hawkes family training team aren’t 100 per cent sure Saturday’s McEwen Stakes 2011 at Moonee Valley is the right race for their recently imported Hong Kong sprinter Happy Zero to make their Australian race debut in, but they are keen to see how they step up to the spring carnival challenge.
A nine-horse final field were accepted for this year’s $15,000 Group 3 McEwen Stakes (1000m), running as one of the major stakes races on the traditional Cox Plate Preview Day.
McEwen Stakes betting is lead by 2011 Manikato Stakes-bound Kulgrinda, the “Peter Moody fever” hitting punters ever since Black Caviar came onto the scene ensuring that the mare is at short odds.
Kulgrinda, a four-year-old daughter of Exceed And Excel, has won her last two races at Listed level including her most recent victory when outclassing a quality field by an easy margin at Moonee Valley on August 20.
Her cruisy racing style and obvious ability has seen Kulgrinda installed as the firming $2.40 favourite at Luxbet for the McEwen Stakes, jockey Luke Nolen to get the inside running once again from barrier one – the same as last-start.
There are three other horses in the McEwen Stakes field at single figure odds to win with consistent Group 1 performer Crystal Lily ($4.20), The Galaxy winner Atomic Force ($9) and Robert Heathcote’s Queensland raider Buffering ($9.50).
Further down the McEwen Stakes betting markets punters will find Happy Zero ($12).
Formerly prepared by heroic Hong Kong horseman John Moore, Danzero seven-year-old Happy Zero is preparing to race in the colours of their new Australian connections for the first time since joining the Flemington-based stables of John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes earlier this year.
“I purposely haven’t asked John Moore whether he’s a good worker or a bad worker, just because I’m trying to form my own opinion of him,” Wayne Hawkes said.
Happy Zero has been sidelined for over a year, their last race appearance being their failed attempt in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1207im) at Royal Ascot in June of last year.
Prior to that the lightly-raced veteran recorded a third place finish in the 2010 Krisflyer International Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin and is also an elite level winner themselves having taken out last year’s Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee (1400m) in Hong Kong.
Hawkes, however, is confident that Happy Zero is ready to return to the track as they showed with a winning barrier trial over 900 metres at Rosehill last month.
“He had a couple of trials in Sydney and I really do think he’s actually better down here (in Melbourne,” Hawkes said.
“He’s a lot more relaxed – not that he was bad in Sydney – but he’s like a Clerk of the Course horse down here.
“He’s just perfect.”
What he isn’t quite sure about is whether the sharp 1000 metre race will suit.
“His record is outstanding, but we really have to wait and see how he runs on Saturday,” Hawkes said.
“He’s probably not really going like a 1000-metre horse, that’s for sure, but this is just a good stepping stone for him.
Punters, however, can have a little bit more confidence looking at Happy Zero’s record which shows they are unbeaten over the distance with two wins from as many attempts, both first-up.
“You’ve got natural speed horses in this race and it’s 1000 (metres), so he’s going to be giving them a start,” Hawkes said of Saturday’s McEwen Stakes.
“But if he’s hitting the line good and he’s powering home at the end, which I think he will be, that’ll be as good as winning for us.”
Below are the latest list of 2011 Mitty’s McEwen Stakes odds, which you can check updates of and get on right now at Luxbet.
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2011 McEwen Stakes Odds
|1||HAPPY ZERO (6)||12.00|
|2||ATOMIC FORCE (9)||9.00|
|4||FIRST COMMAND (4)||11.00|
|5||ZEDI KNIGHT (5)||51.00|
|7||CRYSTAL LILY (7)||4.20|
|9||SATIN SHOES (2)||15.00|
Moonee Valley Race 6 – 10/09/2011 – 3:00pm (local)
*Fixed Win Odds correct at time of publication