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With reigning champ Hay List given a breather ahead of bigger autumn targets the 2012 Challenge Stakes on Rosehill Guineas Dayis shaping up as an exciting sprint clash between two of the most consistent gallopers getting around, Rain Affair and Bel Sprinter.
Just seven horses were paid up for to run in the $175,000 Group 2 Parramatta Leagues Club Challenge Stakes (1100m) this Saturday, Rain Affair the top-rated of the hopefuls.
Joe Pride’s Commands four-year-old boasts a commanding record of 10 wins from 12 starts, including back-to-back Group 2 wins at Rosehill during February.
Rain Affair suffered his worse loss to date last start when finishing two and a half lengths away sixth to Hay List in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington, but without the country’s second-best sprinter in the mix Saturday could be their time to shine.
Gosford trainer John McNair confirmed Hay List would be given a brief break before contesting the $1 million Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on April 14.
After a big 22-horse Newmarket shuffle, Rain Affair is also likely to appreciate facing just six rivals in the Challenge Stakes field when they line up from barrier three with Corey Brown aboard.
Those rivals will take some beating, however, the other most notable Challenge Stakes acceptor being the Jason Warren-trained Bel Sprinter.
Due to be ridden by Ben Melham from gate four, Bel Esprit four-year-old Bel Sprinter is another galloper that until last start had won all but one of their career starts.
Five victories and a second in the Bobbie Lewis at Flemington last September had Bel Sprinter being spruiked as a genuine chance in their maiden Group 1 assignment in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 25.
They only managed to finish sixth to Woorim, but were beaten only one and a half lengths with improvement to come.
Originally Bel Sprinter was to also run in the Newmarket, but Warren was forced to scratch them after they had a minor abrasion to their hind leg which they have now overcome.
There are also two smart fillies looking to beat the boys in the Challenge Stakes this year with the John O’Shea-trained Oakleigh Plate runner-up Elite Falls on the rails in gate one and Clarry Conners’ Flying Spur Satin Shoes last seen running second in a Morphettville Group 2 on March 12.
Satin Shoes, who is heading towards a run in the $350,000 Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) at Randwick on April 21, is a dual Rosehill acceptor on Saturday also paid up for in the $125,000 Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) where she has drawn one of 14.
Rounding out the 2012 Challenge Stakes field and barriers are then Pride’s other runner Neeson (barrier two), and the David Payne-trained duo of Winter King (barrier seven) and Cardinal Virtue (barrier six).
Stay tuned for the latest Rosehill Guineas Day fields and betting updates.
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2012 Challenge Stakes Final Field & Barrier Draw
Rosehill Race 4 – 2:10pm – 31/03/2012
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||11111X1116||RAIN AFFAIR||Joseph Pride||Corey Brown||3||58.5kg||112|
|2||X434410X26||NEESON||Joseph Pride||Michael Rodd||2||58.5kg||108|
|3||1X1112X16||BEL SPRINTER||Jason Warren||Ben Melham||4||58.5kg||105|
|4||X222379X40||WINTER KING (NZ)||David Payne||–||7||58.5kg||102|
|5||712330833X||CARDINAL VIRTUE||David Payne||–||6||58.5kg||95|
|6||2137X569X2||ELITE FALLS||John O’Shea||Jim Cassidy||1||54kg||103|
|7||1887135X02||SATIN SHOES||Clarry Conners||Blake Shinn||5||54kg||98|
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