Just the one black-type race takes place around the country this weekend with Rosehill Gardens hosting the Winter Challenge 2014 on the opening Saturday meet of the 2014-15 Australian racing season.
Early nominations for this year’s $100,000 Listed Winter Challenge (1500m) attracted 12 hopefuls with Sydney’s premiership winning trainer Chris Waller dominating the entries numbers-wise.
Waller boasts an imposing seven nominees for the middle distance clash, nominations for which were extended until 11am on Tuesday.
Heading Waller’s contingent is veteran seven-year-old Bagman coming off some good winter form.
Three back in late June they finished second to Scream Machine in the Natski Handicap at this track and distance before going out over further for their next two runs.
A fourth behind stablemate I’m Imposing over the mile on July 12 at Randwick was followed by a run in Melbourne over 1800m at Caulfield when third, carrying 60kg, behind Lord Durante at Eagle Farm last Saturday.
If accepted the Easy Rocking gelding will be on the short seven-day turnaround but back at home and down in distance could be one of the main players.
Among Waller’s other more notable entries are then his recent Shoot Out Handicap winner over the Randwick mile I’m Imposing and French import He’s Your Man.
Cape Cross five-year-old He’s Your Man ran first-up off a lengthy five month break in the Listed Civic Stakes (1350m) on July 5 here at Rosehill finishing a credible third just over three lengths behind Generalife.
They will take improvement out of that run and should appreciate the extra distance here.
Outside of the Waller clan the other big name Winter Challenge hopeful looks to be the Gai Waterhouse-trained Queenstown.
The consistent Stratum mare, a rising five-year-old, has finished out of the money just three times over her 16 starts so far.
This winter she’s had three runs, most recently enjoying the distance of the Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) when defeating Secessio on July 10 by an easy three lengths.
She drops back notably in distance here however and so will need to be at her best not to get out sprinted over the 1500m.
Waterhouse has also entered her Danasinga four-year-old Danas Best for their first-up run since mid-February.
Group 1 performed, the gelding comes off a winning 1200m Randwick trial from July 18 so should be fit for their return.
Also in the mix and coming off nice lead-up form are then the Bart & James Cummings-trained Romantic Moon and Scream Machine from the Warwick Farm stables of Jason Coyle.
More Than Ready filly Romantic Moon scored a win over this track and distance against the girls in a BenchMark 83 on June 28 before her brave last start second when one and a quarter lengths off Generalife in the Winter Stakes (1400m) here on July 19.
Scream Machine meanwhile beat home Bagman in the Natski Handicap (1500m) at the track two back before their Winter Stakes third just a long neck further away from the runner-up Romantic Moon who had a four and a half kilo weight advantage.
See below for the current Winter Challenge 2014 nominations, the final field and barriers set for release on Wednesday.
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2014 Winter Challenge Nominations
Rosehill Racecourse – 02/08/2014
|2||COUP AY TEE (NZ)||Chris Waller||100|
|3||DANAS BEST||Gai Waterhouse||82|
|4||DISCLAIMER (GB)||Peter & Paul Snowden||87|
|5||EIGELSTEIN (GB)||Chris Waller||97|
|6||HE’S YOUR MAN (FR)||Chris Waller||93|
|7||I’M IMPOSING (GB)||Chris Waller||98|
|8||LUCKY CHAPPY (IRE)||Chris Waller||97|
|10||ROMANTIC MOON||Bart & James Cummings||90|
|11||SCREAM MACHINE||Jason Coyle||101|
|12||TOUGHER THAN EVER (NZ)||Chris Waller||95|