Gai Waterhouse’s returning Golden Slipper runner-up from last autumn English is the firm favourite to secure the Challenge Stakes 2016 win first-up at Royal Randwick Racecourse this weekend in Sydney.
The three-year-old Encosta De Lago filly takes on a tough field of older sprinters at weight-for-age in Saturday’s $500,000 Group 2 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m), but is well fancied to handle the assignment.
She was one of the gun youngsters last Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival winning the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) at Randwick before a second to Vancouver in the $3.5 million Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m).
Her latest run was a sixth in the Group 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) nearly a year ago, but she returns and look fit and ready to fire after two stunning trials at Randwick.
The latest was a win over Golden Slipper fancy and Magic Millions Classic winning colt Capitalist over 837m at Randwick on February 19, form the bookies are tipping to stack up.
English pays $4 in the latest Canterbury Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au and she is going to be in the finish somewhere if she runs as well as she trialled.
The next best fancied at $4.80 is the rails-drawn Ball Of Muscle for Joe Pride, the Dubawi five-year-old boasting an excellent record over the track and distance of two wins and a third from three starts.
He loves Randwick and is a short-distance specialist who also runs well fresh and is a Group 1 placegetter over the 1000m in Melbourne behind Buffering in last October’s Moir Stakes.
Ball Of Muscle is yet to miss a place in the top three from 17 previous runs and should continue that record here.
Close third favourite in Canterbury Stakes betting at $5 is the Tony McEvoy-trained Zariz six-year-old Shiraz who also returns to racing here.
This sprinter is a first-up flyer with four wins from five previous runs when resuming and jumps from barrier seven with Hugh Bowman in the saddle this weekend.
The last of the hopes under $10 for the win are the early market mover Speak Fondly ($7) and Kinglike ($9).
Along with the favourite English, Waterhouse saddles-up fellow three-year-old filly Speak Fondly whose last run produced an elite level win at the track in the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) last October.
The daughter of Northern Meteor was runner-up to Exosphere prior to that in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) and won back-to-back Group 2 Randwick races leading up the Rose.
This is form she’s looking to continue upon her return on the back of a winning barrier trial at the track, Speak Fondly jumping from a nice barrier three draw with Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle.
Kinglike meanwhile is out in gate nine with internationally performed champion hoop Craig Williams riding the Peter Moody-trained Exceed And Excel colt who shoots for his first win since Flemington’s Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) in the spring.
At more generous odds and after the upset are the likes of the Kris Lees-trained mare Felines ($12) up in class after back-to-back wins over the track / distance and Rule The River ($16) who is another flying four-year-old mare with an unbeaten three-from-three record at 1000m to maintain.
See below for the latest Challenge Stakes 2016 betting odds, full markets and promos for all the weekend’s Group racing found by following the links to Ladbrokes.com.au!