Following the release of nominations back in July, first declarations have now been taken for the Blue Diamond Stakes 2014, the 44th edition of the classic running at Caulfield Racecourse on February 22.
Originally 1025 yearlings were entered for the $1 million Group 1 Sportingbet Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m), one of the headline races of the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival.
That number was cut to 501 first acceptors for Victoria’s richest two-year-olds’ race this week.
Leading the Blue Diamond first declarations numbers-wise is Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse, who won her maiden Melbourne Cup with Fiorente this spring, boasting 42 remaining entries.
Waterhouse however is without a Blue Diamond Stakes trophy in the cabinet but has prepared three minor placegetters with No Looking Back (2012), Wager (2004) and Spectaorial (2001).
She is followed closely by David Hayes with 41, the Euroa-based trainer having come close to a victory this year when Fast ‘N’ Rocking ran second in the classic.
Hayes has prepared five previous Blue Diamond Stakes winners with Canonise (1991), Principality (1995), Nadeem (2006), Sleek Chassis (2007) and most recently Reaan (2008) who was the fourth consecutive Blue Diamond winner for jockey Dwayne Dunn.
Heading the entries for Melbourne are then Mick Price and Peter Moody with 29 still in contention for each of the Caulfield-based horsemen.
They have each won one Blue Diamond, Price with Samaready (2012) and Moody with Reward For Effort (2009).
Peter Snowden meanwhile has 25 youngsters still in the mix, the dedicated horseman soon to step down as Darley’s head trainer.
The surprising news Snowden would relinquish his position as the top trainer for Australia’s Darley operation, which he has held since May 2008, was announced this week.
The partnership will come to a close at the end of the autumn carnival with Snowden to enter a family-based enterprise with his son Paul.
“It has been a rewarding six years and I am proud of all that we have achieved,” Snowden said in a statement to the media.
“It is the right time to move on with my son Paul and take on a new challenge. It is something we have always wanted to do.
“With an operation like this it is only fair that there is plenty of time for a transition. Sheikh Mohammed has provided me with an amazing opportunity and I will be forever grateful.
“When the time comes we will deal with the farewells but for now my focus is on producing results for Darley.”
Snowden’s most recent Blue Diamond Stakes victory was in 2011 with superstar colt Sepoy, subsequent winner of that year’s Golden Slipper.
Among his headline entries for next year are recent Randwick winner Earthquake and fellow filly Memorial who also won on debut in Sydney.
This autumn gone the Blue Diamond Stakes meanwhile was won by the Daniel Clarken-trained Adelaide based filly Miracles Of Life.
Clarken paid the hefty $55,000 late entry fee to get the daughter of Not A Single Doubt into the mix, and it proved a winning investment as she scored a decisive victory over Fast ‘N’ Rocking.
The reigning Blue Diamond Stakes winning trainer has paid up this time round for six of his current two-year-olds.
Progeny of Fastnet Rock, sire of last year’s runner-up, meanwhile make up nearly 10 percent of the entries and boasts the highest representation of any stallion.
Other well represented stallions in the remaining Blue Diamond Stakes entries for next autumn include Snitzel (26) and the ill-fated Northern Meteor (23).
All the youngsters nominated for the Blue Diamond 2014 are also automatically included in the entries for the $250,000 Catanach’s Jewellers Blue Sapphire (1200m) heck on Caulfield Guineas Day next September.
2014 Blue Diamond second declarations are now due for release on January 7, 2014, closing at midday (AEDT) attracting a fee of $440.
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