Chris Waller will saddle-up three chances in the Missile Stakes in Sydney on Saturday including his Epsom Handicap 2014 hope Weary.
The Waller-trained trio is part of a nine horse field facing off in the $175,000 Group 2 McGrath Estate Agents Missile Stakes (1200m) on the weekend at Royal Randwick which kicks off Group racing for the new season.
Race favourites at an equal $3.80 through Ladbrokes.com.au are Gai Waterhouse’s smart mare Sweet Idea in her four-year-old debut and the Gary Portelli-trained Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner Rebel Dane.
Waller meanwhile will be represented by Boban ($8.50), Weary ($9.50) and his $26 outsider Hawkspur.
French import Weary jumps from barrier six with Hugh Bowman aboard in their first run since Tommy Berry guided them to a second behind visiting Japanese mare Hana’s Goal in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) on April 26.
The last time Bowman was in the saddle the now five-year-old Astronomer Royal grey won the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude (1500m) in the mud at Rosehill before they backed up to run third in the Group 1 over a mile next start.
This time in Waller plans to keep Weary in Sydney aiming them at the $500,000 Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) back at Randwick on October 4.
He’s confident the horse is in top form but is a little worried about their chances on Saturday’s firm Sydney track.
“He did a great job in the autumn and he’s come back well,” Waller told AAP this week.
“I’m just not sure on a good track how well he will sprint.
“A lot of that form in the autumn was on dead to slow tracks.”
Boban meanwhile returns here after bleeding during their last start when 11th, beaten 17 lengths, in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 19 that scored them a three month ban.
The Bernardini gelding, formerly with Anthony Freedman, was one of the gun horses of last year’s Spring Racing Carnival wining all five of their starts including the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
While Waller had been confident they could get out to 2000m when he lined them up in the Queen Elizabeth during the autumn, the bleeding episode has forced him to change Boban’s training and keep them to a mile.
All going to plan and they will head to Melbourne again and could defend their Emirates Stakes title in November.
“It’s told me not to try him over 2000 metres, it puts a bit of extra pressure on him,” Waller said.
“I’ll keep him to the shorter trips, including a mile. We’ll just gradually get him fit and up to that (top) level.”
Also Melbourne-bound is Waller’s third and longest-priced Missile Stakes hopeful, former Queensland Derby winner Hawkspur who targets the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4 when the Epsom runs in Sydney.
The now five-year-old Purrealist gelding relished a Brisbane campaign last year that resulted in three Group wins including the Queensland Derby before their hit-and-miss spring which ended with a 20th behind Fiorente in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Their Melbourne Cup experiment proved to Waller that they weren’t a genuine stayer, Hawkspur also failing over 2000m when 10th in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last time out.
They were competitive over less distance leading up to that in the autumn however including their third to stablemate Boban in the Chipping Norton Stakes and their Doncaster Mile fourth when Waller trained the first four over the line in the April 12 classic.
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