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They may be the $201 rank outsider for Saturday’s Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes 2013 at Moonee Valley but Warrnambool trainer James McNamara warns punters not to completely rule out his Cox Plate bound stayer Hornets’ Nest.
A bargain buy for current connections purchased for a mere $2,500 from last year’s William Inglis and Sons March Thoroughbred Sales, the High Chaparral five-year-old steps right up in class this weekend running against a crack field in the $300,000 Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m).
While on paper the race seems out of their reach, McNamara has held a huge opinion of them since snapping them up for the paltry asking price.
“I said to (my wife) Lisa on the way home from the sale that his horse is bred to do anything on a racecourse,” McNamara told Racing Victoria.
“I thought he could even make it to a Melbourne Cup.”
An important lead-up to some of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival majors including the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) back at the track on October 26, the Dato has this year drawn a super field of 11 hopes.
Of those it is Mark Kavanagh’s Australian Cup winner Super Cool who dominates the markets at a current quote of $3.20.
Following closely in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes odds at $3.40 is then the Gai Waterhouse-trained import Fiorente ($3.40) who is 2013 Melbourne Cup bound having run an eye-catching second to Green Moon in the ‘race that stops a nation’ 12 months ago.
At the complete opposite end of the markets punters can then find the field’s triple figure roughie Hornets’ Nest.
Drawn in the ‘visitor’s’ barrier 11 with Ms Nikita McLean to ride Hornets’ Nest, who is rumoured to have cost original owners over $700,000, has had seven starts to date for four wins but is yet to be tested in black type company.
During the spring last year they were dominant having been transferred from Anthony Freedman’s care to McNamara’s provincial base from which they won all four of their season starts around the country tracks, their first as an $85 chance.
Their most notable was their October success at home over the 2200m in the $50,000 Showcase Benchmark 89 Handicap where they defeated odds-on favourite Puissance De Lune by half a length.
Puissance De Lune would go on to win the Bendigo Cup – Queen Elizabeth Stakes double that season and earn top spot in the futures markets for this year’s Melbourne Cup.
They’ve retained that position in Melbourne Cup betting too, Darren Weir’s star import most recently seen going down a mere nose to Foreteller, a three-quarter brother to Hornets’ Nest, in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington last Saturday.
Hornets’ Nest meanwhile resumed off a lengthy six and a half month spell at their home track on May 2 but things went well amiss when they finished dead last beaten nearly 20 lengths having torn a muscle during the Warrnambool May Carnival feature.
Spending the next four and a half months on the sidelines, Hornets’ Nest returns this weekend in a real acid test having been nominated as a pipe dream by McNamara for the Cox Plate next month.
“He’s only got a rating of 82, so he’ll have to do absolutely everything right to even get a start, but I reckon he’s got enough ability to compete in a Cox Plate,” McNamara said.
“He’s probably going to be a better chance of making it next year, but we’ll give him every chance.”
Originally the galloper was to accept for a much easier Moonee Valley assignment first-up, the $80,000 Jeep Don’t Hold Back Handicap (1600m).
However their trainer decided to roll the dice in the day’s marquee race after the news Cox Plate favourite Atlantic Jewel would miss the Dato in favour of a run against her own kind in the Stocks Stakes.
Following Saturday’s tough run McNamara plans to back Hornets’ Nest up on September 27 back at Moonee Valley in something like the $200,000 Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) before heading to Caulfield for a shot at the $400,000 Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) on October 12 and then possibly the Cox Plate.
Their form around a horse as good as Puissance De Lune gives their trainer confidence, but like all good horseman McNamara has a back-up plan.
“I’m not saying the horse is better than (Puissance De Lune), but I am confident he can go to that level,” he said.
“If I’m wrong, I reckon he’ll be winning plenty of $80,000 races in Melbourne over the quieter periods.”
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