Chris Waller is set to saddle eight horses in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday in his bid to win the race an unprecedented fifth consecutive time.
Foreteller, Boban, He’s Your Man, Hawkspur, Junoob, Weary, Who Shot Thebarman, and Opinion are all confirmed starters for the $500,000 feature race. With a total of 15 runners set to tackle the mile, Waller has more than half the field.
Even if the top Sydney trainer can’t win his fifth Chipping Norton Stakes in a row, he’ll still break a record for the most runners in a Group One race in Australia if all eight start. The record is currently held by Gai Waterhouse (who had seven runners in the Metropolitan in 1995 and 1996) and John Hawkes (who had seven in the 2003 Golden Slipper).
“They are all at different points of their preparation but they have earned their place in a race like this one,” Waller told The Sydney Morning Herald of his eight runners.
“It is hard to split them up right now and to tell you the truth we could have had Beaten Up and Bagman in the race as well. They all have group 1 targets later in the autumn but this is the right race at the right time.
“We have a few genuine chances that are miler specialists, a few that are one run from their best run like Junoob, Foreteller and Hawkspur – specialist 2000-metre horses. Then you have Who Shot Thebarman and Opinion that are stayers and probably two runs away from their best.”
Despite having a monopoly on the 2015 Chipping Norton Stakes field with Foreteller jumping from barrier one and He’s Your Man in the outside gate, Waller admits the race is Contributer’s to lose.
The John O’Shea-trained horse is the $2.80 firm favourite in the Ladbrokes.com.au betting after an impressive first-up win in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) on February 14. With a similar field lining up on Saturday, he is well-tipped to impress again.
“Eight is a lot to have in one race, I don’t think I have had that many in a race before, but you only need one,” Waller continued.
“The way I look at the race is that Contributer would have to come back a fair bit for us to beat him.”
Waller’s charge have won 36 races between them, five of which are Group One winners. The trainer believes defending champion Boban ($14), Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) winner He’s Your Man ($13), and in-form Weary ($9) all have the best chance at winning the Chipping Norton Stakes on Saturday.
“Boban might not be in his best form but he has had a good prep, he is third up over the mile and won the race before,” Waller said.
“Weary has proven himself many times at weight-for-age, the mile will suit and if there is some rain around he will come right into the race.
“He’s Your Man won second-up last time and I think he should be still sharp enough to be competitive over the mile. I’m banking that Contributer comes back to us a bit because he was just dominant last time, but I’m happy with my team.”
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