Todd Willan’s smart five-year-old Artlee is guaranteed a start in Saturday’s 18-starter Stradbroke Handicap 2016 field at Eagle Farm Racecourse.
After last Saturday’s Queensland Oaks Day wash-out, a host of Stradbroke hopes missed out on a final bid to make the line-up for the state’s richest race without the running of the $175,000 Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m).
Currently Excellent Art gelding Artlee sits 18th on the order of entry for the $1.5 million Group 1 AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
He was in danger of missing out on a run in the handicap classic and would have been leapfrogged in the Stradbroke Handicap ballot by the QTC Cup winner.
With the QTC Cup rescheduled to run on a now bumper 10-race Stradbroke Handicap Day card along with the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m), Artlee has secured his run in the Group 1.
Heading the Stradbroke Handicap ballot and weights with 58kg is the in-form Darren Weir-trained Blackfriars five-year-old Black Heart Bart.
The gelding has run first or second in his five latest starts including a win in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) in Adelaide last time out on May 21 and will have Brad Rawiller aboard on the weekend.
He also occupies the second line of all-in Stradbroke Handicap odds at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $5 to continue his success and hand Melbourne Cup winning trainer Weir his first Stradbroke trophy.
Leading the latest Stradbroke Handicap betting markets at $4 is Ciaron Maher’s Shinko King mare Azkadellia, Maher having prepared last year’s winner Srikandi (2015).
Four-year-old Azkadellia won Sydney’s Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) on April 9 before a brave last start second to Music Magnate ins the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m) on May 28.
The Doomben 10,000 has produced four of the past seven Stradbroke Handicap winners including Srikandi last year who improved on a sixth in the weight-for-age clash.
Artlee meanwhile is only rated a $21 shot to score an upset Stradbroke Handicap result despite getting in on a light 52kg weight.
Last time out he had 55.5kg on his back for a third behind Snippets Land at Doomben in the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m), which followed his seventh in the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) in mid-May carrying 58.5kg.
Mitchell Bell returns to the saddle for Saturday’s Stradbroke on Artlee for the first time since a ninth to Music Magnate in the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Randwick in mid-April, replacing Michael Cahill.
The other top fancied Stradbroke hopes this season include Chris Waller’s last start Group 3 Fred Best Classic winning colt Counterattack ($7), the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained Group 1 BTC Cup champion Malaguerra ($7) and The Goodwood runner-up Under The Louvre ($9).
The Doomben 10,000 winner Music Magnate meanwhile is rated a $10 chance to complete the double.
The 2016 Stradbroke Handicap field and barriers are out on Wednesday making now your last chance to lock-in the generous early odds on offer at Ladbrokes.com.au for your selections!