2012 Winter Challenge Test for Australian Star

In-form gelding Australian Star could face the toughest test of his career this weekend if trainer Gerald Ryan accepts for the Listed $100,000 2012 Winter Challenge (1600m) at Warwick Farm.

Ryan is yet to decide whether the rising four-year-old will get his first step up to black-type racing or compete in the 3YO Benchmark 80 Handicap for which he is also nominated.

“All the reports are he has pulled up well,” Ryan said.

“He’s going really good and is in his right class but we may step him up.”

The son of Exceed And Excel has been in scintillating form throughout the winter, winning his past three starts at Rosehill.

The talented gelding has shown his appreciation for wet tracks, with all three victories coming on slow or heavy surfaces.

Adam Hyeronimus rode Australian Star last start but weight will cause Ryan to look to Tommy Berry if the Winter Challenge is decided as the preferred race option.

“He won’t get Adam’s weight in the Winter Challenge so if he goes in that, Tommy Berry will ride,” Ryan said.

Just nine nominations were received for the Winter Challenge yesterday, with Irish Dream, Spinnawitch and Erewhon joining Australian Star as last-start winners.

Ron Quinton-trained mare will be chasing her second Listed level victory from as many starts after upsetting favourite See The World to claim top honours in the Winter Stakes at Warwick Farm on July 14.

The rising six-year-old was sent to Quinton to increase her stud value and it was a case of mission accomplished as the daughter of Falbrav reeled in the field from the outside to score a narrow victory.

Gai Waterhouse gelding King Lionheart will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing first-up effort where he finished ninth in the Winter Stakes.

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