With connections ruling out excitement machine and last-start Expressway Stakes winner Rain Affair from the 2012 Oakleigh Plate Saturday week, trainer David Hayes is more confident than ever his upset Rubiton Stakes victor Eagle Falls can go back-to-back in the elite level feature.
On Saturday classy commands four-year-old Rain Affair scored an empathic four length victory in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill boosting their career record to nine wins from 10 starts.
The ultra-consistent sprinter, however, has been ruled out of a run in the $350,000 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Blue Diamond Stakes Day, February 25.
They will instead target the more lucrative Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival showdown – the $1 million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 10.
The autumn racing plans of Rain Affair came as music to the ears of Flemington-based horseman Hayes who will seek successive Oakleigh Plate victories with his always-honest Hussonet six-year-old Eagle Falls.
While Rain Affair was dominating the Rosehill racing action on Saturday, over at Caulfield Eagle Falls was bouncing back to his best with a smart one three-quarter length first-up victory over First Command in the Group 3 Rubiton Stakes (1100m).
The win was the gelding’s first since they beat home the likes of Avenue and Hinchinbrook in last year’s Oakleigh Plate.
It had been, until Saturday, a shocking 12 months for Eagle Falls who never recovered from a virus and suffered their worst ever racing season failing to finish in the top half of the field in all but one of their six runs since the 2011 Oakleigh.
Showing improvement and more to come with the last-to-first Rubiton victory, however, has Hayes looking towards a title defense with a new found optimism, Eagle Falls out to become the first successive Oakleigh Plate winner since Dual Choice (1971-72).
“The eagle lifted,” Hayes said on Saturday.
“We were playing catch up the whole time so we gave him a good spell.”
Hayes, who donned a Black Caviar tie on Saturday to commemorate the mighty mare’s 18th consecutive turf triumph in the CF Orr Stakes, also said that it was his three testing runs when thrashed by the queen herself that contributed to Eagle Falls’ losing his ability.
“She was just too fast for him and he gave up,” Hayes said.
He was also happy connections had decided against an Oakleigh Plate run for Black Caviar this prep.
“The great one (Black Caviar) is not going down the handicap route and we’re pretty happy about that,” Hayes said.
The Oakleigh Plate is one of three Group 1 features running at Caulfield Saturday week and nominations and odds for the event are due out next week.
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