Jockey Tim Clark is feeling bullish over his chances of securing this weekend’s sole black-type as he prepares to partner the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Great Esteem in the 2015 Winter Challenge at Rosehill Gardens.
This year’s $100,000 Listed The Paslode Winter Challenge (1500m) runs as Rosehill Race 6 (3:25pm) on the Horse’s Birthday meeting on Saturday and features a 10-horse field.
Three of those come from dual defending trainer Chris Waller who ran the 2013 quinella and last year’s trifecta in the handicap feature.
He’s back this winter with three of the best fancied in the Winter Challenge odds at Ladbrokes.com.au: current favourite You’ll Never ($4.80), market mover Eigelstein ($5) and last start Winter Stakes winner Rugged Cross ($5.50).
While Rugged Cross beat a similar field home last time out to win the Listed Winter Stakes (1400m) at the same track on July 18 on a Heavy (9) course, the extra two kilos he will carry with 58kg on his back this weekend put him at a disadvantage.
It is the opposite story for the Team Snowden-trained son of Redoute’s Choice Great Esteem, the gelding turning five on Saturday, who drops from 57.5kg last time out to the 54kg minimum on Saturday.
A winner of five of his 22 starts to date the horse hasn’t been seen in the winner’s stall since taking out a BenchMark 75 over 1800m at Randwick in early January.
He has been competitive since then including back-to-back seconds in his two Winter Challenge lead-up races.
The first was behind Hollywood Bound over the same track and distance as this weekend before his effort behind Foreign Prince over 1550m at Canterbury on July 25.
Hugh Bowman was in the saddle for both those second place efforts but is replaced by Clark this weekend.
It will be Clark’s first ride on Great Esteem but already the hoop is confident he can guide the horse to his first win this campaign with a drier track and short turnaround both working in his favour.
“He’s a much better horse on top of the ground and it looks as though we’ll get a drier track than what he’s been racing on recently,” Clark told The Daily Telegraph.
“The seven-day back-up might help him too, he’s been going into races on wet tracks off little breaks and that’s not usually a recipe for success.”
Great Esteem currently pays $6 in the Winter Challenge betting markets and will jump from barrier four.
Also getting in on the 54kg minimum and under double figures to win is the Peter Moody-trained mare Noela’s Choice ($5).
Drawn the outside barrier (10 of 10), the daughter of Sebring is five on Saturday and comes off a credible fifth in the Winter Stakes from the same barrier where she was beaten only two lengths.
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