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Darley’s recently appointed new head trainer John O’Shea is chasing his maiden Group 1 success today in the Eagle Farm major with livewire chance Knoydart and stablemate Emblems lining up in the 2014 Stradbroke Handicap.
Money has been steady for More Than Ready four-year-old Knoydart in the markets for the $1.36 million Group 1 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) since the capacity field for Queensland’s richest race was released on Wednesday.
The Sydney raider has firmed right in to single figures in the latest Stradbroke Handicap odds paying $8 as the fourth favourite behind Ciaron Maher’s flying filly Srikandi ($5).
Emblems meanwhile is a $31 outsider in Stradbroke Handicap betting but drawn to perfection in barrier five with Group 1 winning hoop Chad Schofield riding.
“He’s got a lovely ‘soft’ draw and he should be able to settle up with the leaders,” O’Shea’s stable representative Jason Walsh told The Daily Telegraph.
O’Shea gave both horses a testing gallop on Tuesday morning and was particularly happy with where Knoydart was leading up to Saturday’s assignment.
“John went to Brisbane to watch Knoydart and Emblems work on Tuesday morning and he was particularly pleased with Knoydart,” Walsh said.
The top elect Srikandi gets in on 51kg, a nice drop back from the 57kg she carried to victory in the Glenlogan last start, but Knoydart also enjoys a light Stradbroke weight of just 53.5kg while Emblems is a kilo lighter with 52.5kg.
The weight will be a huge advantage to Knoydart who carried 59kg in the 10,000.
“We are very pleased with Knoydart,” Walsh said.
“His Doomben 10,000 run was a great Stradbroke trial and he drops significantly in weight.
Knoydart originally drew barrier 11 but with the emergencies now officially out that becomes gate eight, seemingly the ideal starting position for the gelding and their jockey Kerrin McEvoy.
McEvoy has been aboard the up-and-comer for their two most recent runs, including their Brisbane debut and debut run for O’Shea at Doomben last start on May 24.
There they stepped up to Group 1 company for the third time putting in a brave effort to finish under two lengths away fifth to the winner Spirit Of Boom, the 58kg topweight and $7.50 chance for the Stradbroke, in the Doomben 10,000 (1350m).
They couldn’t get into a spot that day when pushed back and trailing last in the 11 horse field onto the straight.
Racing wide over the final stages they made up lots of late ground however in a good performance they get a chance to improve on here with a gear change from O’Shea.
“He’s adjusted the horse’s gear slightly by putting a cross-over nose band on and taken the winkers off which should give Kerrin McEvoy more control, plus help the horse settle into the bridle,” Walsh said.
“With a good tempo, big field and the pressure of a $1 million race, we believe Knoydart is well suited and will be finishing strongly.”
Certainly no stranger to this class, Knoydart also ran third behind Lankan Rupee in both the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap this autumn so with a run in Brisbane now under their belt they’re tipped to finish closer today.
If not the Stradbroke there are other Group 1 chances for O’Shea on the Eagle Farm card today too.
The stable saddles up Auberge in the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m), while Careless and Mohave are the two-year-olds for O’Shea in the $500,000 Group 1 JJ Atkins (1600m).
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