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Adelaide-trained Group 1 winner Hucklebuck is set to return to racing in Melbourne’s 2016 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley Racecourse this weekend running for the first time since a failed The Goodwood effort at home last winter.
The Phillip Stokes-trained five-year-old son of Elvstroem was on fire during the spring of 2014 winning a host of races including most famously the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) over the Flemington mile.
Lightly raced for his age, the million dollar earner has had 14 starts for eight wins so far with his latest run being at Morphettville last May in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m).
Despite his elite winning form from Flemington, the injury-prone galloper could only manage to run four lengths away 12th to Flamberge in the spring clash.
Stokes is now keen to get him back to the track at Moonee Valley for Saturday’s $200,000 Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) under weight-for-age conditions where regular rider Dom Tourneur will continue his association.
It will be the horse’s second run on the tight Moonee Valley circuit where he ran third at just his third career start over 1200m back in September of 2013.
Hucklebuck has class when in the right condition however and has also won three of his five first-up assignments to date, but Stokes is still keeping his confidence in check for the weekend.
“He’s had some knee problems so he had to have a bit of minor surgery and he seems to be over that now and going well,” South Australia’s leading trainer told AAP this week.
“He’s had a couple of jump-outs going into this but he’s still very big in condition and nowhere near his fighting weight.
“He hasn’t raced since May. He’ll need the run and hopefully that will tighten him up for the Orr Stakes three weeks later.
“We’re looking forward to having him back.
“He’s a class horse and the form around him has obviously stood up.”
The $500,000 Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) runs at Caulfield Racecourse on February 13 kicking off Group 1 racing for the calendar year and Stokes is yet to saddle-up a starter in the weight-for-age classic.
Following the Orr Stokes hopes to run Huckleback over the same track and distance a fortnight later in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes before heading to Sydney to target the autumn majors during The Championships in April.
“We’ll get those (Melbourne races) over and done with and then see whether he goes to The Championships or not,” Stokes said.
Other likely 2016 Australia Stakes horses this weekend meanwhile include last Saturday’s Chester Manifold Stakes winner Tudor, Gary Portelli’s returning Manikato Stakes third placegetter Rebel Dane and Medaglia D’Oro four-year-old Durendal last seen winning the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) on January 1.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for all the latest on the Australia Stakes 2016 nominations and acceptances.
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