Highlad Eyes Victoria Derby 2016 over Caulfield Guineas

Co-trainer Murray Baker is likely to have Highlad targeting the 2016 Victoria Derby down under this spring with the promising Kiwi stayer to appreciate more metres than the mile for next month’s Caulfield Guineas.

Murray Baker

Trainer Murray Baker (pictured with jockey James McDonald) has Highlad on track for a 2016 Victoria Derby bid in Melbourne this spring. Photo: Steve Hart.

A nicely-bred son of High Chaparral, the New Zealand-trained Highlad is nominated for the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in Melbourne on October 8.

Baker, who trains in partnership with Andrew Forsman however believes the undefeated galloper will be more suited to longer distances later in the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

A winner on debut at Avondale over 1200m last month, Highlad raced again on Saturday and held on narrowly for a win in the Listed Wanganui Guineas (1340m) after a wide run to beat home stakes winner Manhattan Street.

That has him tracking nicely for an assault on the spring riches in Victoria over the coming weeks with Baker tipping him to handle plenty of distance as he progresses through his maiden race campaign.

“We’ve always liked the horse but he’s still got plenty to learn, he’s a staying sort of a horse and it was still a bit short for him on Saturday,” Baker told Racing Victoria.

“He holds a nomination for the Caulfield Guineas but it might be a bit short for him.”

Highlad is currently paying $31 in all-in Caulfield Guineas betting, the next round of acceptances for which close on Tuesday September 6.

The Hawkes Racing-trained Up & Coming Stakes winner Divine Prophet leads the latest Caulfield Guineas odds at $8 followed by another Kiwi galloper, Sacred Elixir.

Tony Pike’s Pour Moi gelding Sacred Elixir hasn’t raced since June 11 in Brisbane when he enjoyed a big three and a half-length victory in the Group 1 J.J. Atkins (1600m) as a juvenile.

Sacred Elixir is also the current only single-figure fancy in pre-nomination markets for the $1.5 million Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington Racecourse on the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, Saturday October 29.

New Zealanders have a good recent record in the Victoria Derby with victories by Sangster (2011) and Lion Tamer (2010).

Highlad meanwhile is at around $17 in the futures Victoria Derby markets, with Baker indicating he could head into the classic via a runs in Sydney’s $200,000 Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill on September 24 and the $500,000 Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 8.

“Being a son of High Chaparral we’d hope that we can aim him at races like the Gloaming Stakes and Spring Champion in Sydney or the Victoria Derby at Flemington,” he said.

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