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The countdown is on until the latest Group 1 feature of the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival with the Chipping Norton Stakes 2012 set to run at Warwick Farm this Saturday, a race being targeted by Joe Pride’s reigning Doncaster Mile winner Sacred Choice.
It has been a long time between drinks for the now six-year-old Choisir mare who hasn’t been seen in the winner’s stall since her victory in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) last April.
That victory, and many of her other most notable achievements including a big four and a half length victory over Peter Moody’s former Horse of the Year Typhoon Tracy in the 2010 Myer Classic, came on a Heavy (10) track, Sacred Choice needing the mud to perform her best.
Since the Doncaster, Sacred Choice’s best effort was a second to Hurtle Myrtle as she defended her title in the Myer Classic over the Flemington mile on Derby Day last October.
She has been completley out of form in her two starts this season finishing well behind her up-and-coming stablemate Rain Affair, who goes to Group 1 level for the first time this Saturday in the $1 million Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington, in both the Expressway and Apollo Stakes at Rosehill last month.
Smerdon hopes it will again be Sacred Choice’s time to shine, however, when she contests the $350,000 Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at the Farm on Saturday.
“The expectation is there again this year,” Pride said yesterday.
“The blinkers go on and I think she will come good and if they raced today (Monday) it (the Warwick Farm track) would be heavy.”
A win in the Chipping Norton Stakes will automatically earn the victor a ballot-free ride into two upcoming autumn showdowns: the $2 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 21 and the $500,000 Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at the same track the following Saturday, April 28.
The 2012 Doncaster Mile is on the agenda for a number of the Chipping Norton Stakes hopes including Sacred Choice who pays $31 at bookmaker.com.au in their futures markets.
On Monday Racing Victoria took 16 nominations for the 2012 Chipping Norton Stakes, Sacred Choice one of two mares entered for the weight-for-age clash along with Cox Plate hero Pinker Pinker.
It is shaping up as a top edition of the feature with the top three horses from last year’s Chipping Norton Stakes Trifecta in the mix again with winner Danleigh, runner-up Centennial Park and the third placed Sacred Choice.
Along with the defending champ Danleigh, thriving Sydney-based horseman Chris Waller has also entered last-start Apollo Stakes runner-up Shoot Out, warhorse galloper Rangirangdoo and Hawk Island for the race.
“My horses should be just about ready to produce their best,” Waller said.
Other notable entries include Dan Morton’s veteran nine-year-old Perth raider Scenic Shot, Melbourne Cup runner Niwot and the Gai Waterhouse-trained duo of Caulfield Cup third placegetter Tullamore and Herculian Prince.
Herculian Prince had a dismal spring campaign finishing 10th or worse in their four early runs before being sent to the paddock.
In fact, the hit-or-miss Yamanin Vital gelding hadn’t finished better than seventh since their upset three and a half length victory in the 2010 Metropolitan Handicap until their good first-up fourth behind Rain Affair in the Apollo Stakes on February 25.
Waterhouse, however, remains hopeful of a form return from the six-year-old and has engaged the services of the stable’s apprentice hoop Adam Hyeronimus to ride Herculian Prince on Saturday.
Hyeronimus partnered with Herculian Prince for their eye-catching Apollo Stakes fourth and will be hoping for a similar, if not better result with them in the Chipping Norton.
“Herculian Prince seems to have his old spark,’ Waterhouse’s stable spokesman Mark Newnham said.
“He trialled well for Adam (Hyeronimus) and then he raced well for him in the Apollo Stakes.
“Gai is happy to keep him on.”
As for Tullamore, they could bypass the Chipping Norton in favour of a run in the $200,000 Listed Canberra Cup (2000m) on Sunday.
“Gai will make up her mind about Tullamore after going through the Canberra Cup nominations,” Newnham said.
“If he runs in the Chipping Norton, Tommy Berry will ride him.”
To view the complete 2012 Chipping Norton Stakes field and barrier draw once acceptances are taken on Wednesday, bookmark us here at Races.com.au.
2012 Chipping Norton Stakes Ballot & Weights
Warwick Farm – 10/03/2012
|1||CENTENNIAL PARK (NZ)||David Payne||9||59kg||109|
|3||GATHERING||John P Thompson||11||59kg||106|
|4||HAWK ISLAND (IRE)||Chris Waller||10||59kg||107|
|5||HERCULIAN PRINCE (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||14||59kg||104|
|6||MR MAKE BELIEVE||Peter G Moody||16||59kg||95|
|7||NIWOT||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||12=||59kg||105|
|8||RANGIRANGDOO (NZ)||Chris Waller||1||59kg||117|
|9||SCENIC SHOT||Daniel Morton||5=||59kg||113|
|10||SHOOT OUT||Chris Waller||3=||59kg||114|
|11||SNIPER’S BULLET||Tracey Bartley||15||59kg||101|
|12||TRUSTING||John P Thompson||5=||59kg||113|
|13||TULLAMORE (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||12=||59kg||105|
|14||ZAVITE (NZ)||Anthony Cummings||7=||59kg||111|
|15||PINKER PINKER||Greg Eurell||2||57kg||116|
|16||SACRED CHOICE||Joseph Pride||3=||57kg||114|
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