A smaller than expected number of nominations saw trainer Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra make an eleventh hour call to enter Hard Stride in Saturday’s Australia Stakes 2015 in a decision they hope pays off this Saturday.
The feature race at Moonee Valley on the weekend, this year’s $200,000 Group 2 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m) features a final field of just eight hopefuls.
Nine were originally accepted for but a mild bout of colic has ruled out the reigning Australia Stakes champion Richie’s Vibe who was drawn in gate three for jockey Damien Oliver.
The field also features a late entry in Hard Stride, the super-consistent Street Sense gelding only entered after nominations were extended earlier in the week.
“There weren’t that many noms and we thought a few would come out and leave a smallish field so we decided to take a punt,” co-trainer Zahra told Racenet on Thursday.
Along with the diminutive field, Zahra said Hard Stride’s top work on Tuesday morning also contributed to them making the late Australia Stakes entry.
“The horse is going terrific so we decided to enter him after his work on Tuesday, which was very good,” he said.
The four-year-old may have only won three of his 20 career starts but his place record is outstanding of late as he hasn’t finished out of the money since April last year.
His most recent win was an impressive two length effort over multiple Group 1 winner Moment Of Change in the Listed Regal Roller Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield in mid-August, an effort that proved the up-and-comer’s class.
After that Hard Stride boxed on well for a credible third in the Group 3 company behind Flamberge back at the track in Theshark.com.au Stakes before being sent out for a four month break.
He returned from that spell at Flemington on New Year’s Day and caught the eye first-up.
Racing just off the frontrunner Hard Stride was beaten only half a length when third behind The Quarterback in the Listed Kensington Stakes (1000m), an effort he’ll be out to improve on second-up over a little more distance.
At Moonee Valley the horse has an outstanding record of four seconds from four starts, all of those being over the 1200m that he gets up to on Saturday.
There is plenty then to like about the galloper who is one of four single figure hopes in the latest Australia Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
“His first-up run at Flemington was really good and he always races well at the track so why wouldn’t we give him a go?” Zahra, who won the race in 2008 with the Perth-owned Let Go Thommo, said.
The markets this year are firmly led by the Peter Moody-trained Dissident resuming off an enforced break after he suffered a bleeding attack when sixth in the Caulfield Stakes during the spring.
He’s well fancied to kick things off with a win though backed early from $2 into $1.80.
Hard Stride meanwhile is at $6 and will jump from the second widest alley with Damian Lane in the saddle.
To check out the full Australia Stakes odds and options, and to lock in Best Tote or SP + 20% on your winnings for the feature, visit Ladbrokes.com.au now!