Angaston-based trainer Tony McEvoy couldn’t be happier with his Blue Diamond Stakes 2015 duo heading into this weekend’s Melbourne major including his best chance to win, Stoker.
McEvoy has two lining up in the 15-horse field for Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield Racecourse with Stoker and late entry Manhattan Blues drawn in barriers six and 14 respectively.
Race favourite Fontiton for Robert Smerdon came up trumps in Tuesday’s Blue Diamond Stakes barrier draw with gate one and is now sitting top of the markets at Ladbrokes.com.au at a firming quote of $2.45 to retain her undefeated record.
Stoker meanwhile is a $15 chance in the Blue Diamond Stakes odds, a much shorter price than his $41 roughie stablemate Manhattan Blues out to reward connections for the $55,000 late entry price they paid to get him into the field.
Damien Oliver has the ride on Written Tycoon gelding Stoker who has had three runs for a win, a second and a third place finish so far.
The victory came last time out at Sandown-Hillside on February 7 in the $250,000 Inglis 2YO Premier (1000m) where he defeated Manhattan Blues by one and a quarter lengths with Oliver in the saddle for the explosive performance.
He’s yet to step out over further than 1000m but McEvoy is confident he’s ready for the distance and the challenge of taking on a classy Group 1 field of fellow two-year-olds this weekend.
His confidence was boosted by the win of the Team Hawkes-trained Headwater in the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill last weekend that put him at the top of the odds for the $3 million Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) back at the Sydney track on March 21.
Exceed And Excel colt Headwater won over 1000m at Moonee Valley on December 27 in the Cactus Imaging Plate, defeating runner-up Stoker by nearly three lengths after missing the kick.
With the form coming out of that race franked by the Group 2 success, McEvoy hopes Stoker can continue it with a Blue Diamond Stakes upset.
“I think that he has the right talent,” McEvoy told Racing Ahead yesterday.
“If you think back to his first start when he made terrible mistakes in that race at Moonee Valley and ran second to Headwater, Damien (Oliver) and I thought that we would have given that horse a real race if he had not missed the start.
“That form looks pretty strong now and he has done very well since.
“He has the ability to sit right on a strong speed and he can finish strong.
“He is fast, he has good speed and very few two-year-olds can work with your older horses, but he has matched with any older horse that I have got and that is always a very good sign.”
Stoker was put through his paces at home on Tuesday morning and further showed off his ace condition with the easy piece of work.
“He just came up my hill (at Angaston) at 14 to the furlong,” McEvoy said.
“I didn’t think that he needed the galloper, he looks pretty fit and I don’t really want him any better than he was the other day.
“We decided not to gallop him and he seemed really bright and well.”
Manhattan Blues meanwhile has the wide barrier to overcome but double digit gates historically haven’t equaled a death sentence in the Blue Diamond.
Last Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival Earthquake became the third filly in as many years to win, the then Peter Snowden-trained youngster jumping from barrier 15.
Barrier 14 meanwhile last produced a Blue Diamond Stakes winner back in 2010 with the Danny O’Brien-trained Star Witness.
Nicholas Hall rides McEvoy’s outside chance on Saturday, the son of Manhattan Rain a winner on debut at Morphettville Parks back on January 10.
He has had two subsequent runs when sixth to the ill-fated Burnstone in the Blue Diamond Preview (C&G) ant Sandown-Hillside on Australia Day and then his Inglis Premier second last time out.
“I can’t fault the horse, he’s trained on magnificent, and if you look at his last 200 (metres) the other day when he has taken ground off Stoker you’d think, at the 1200, he’d be very strong at the end of that,” McEvoy said of Manhattan Rain.
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