A below capacity field of middle distance gallopers will face off in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes 2016 at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday including the firming Chris Waller-trained favourite Counterattack.
Originally 16 final acceptances were taken for this year’s $500,000 Group 1 Yulong Park Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m), the handicap clash set to run as Caulfield Race 7 at 4:15pm (AEST) on Saturday afternoon in Melbourne.
The early scratching of the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Tycoon Tara (8), who instead stays in Sydney for a shot at the $400,000 Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m), leaves 15 hopefuls.
Heading the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $3.80 (in from $4.80) is last season’s Coolmore Stud Stakes third-placed Counterattack.
The now four-year-old son of Redoute’s Choice has won just once over the past year, but caught the eye last start finishing second to stablemate Mackintosh in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill.
He returns to Melbourne for the first time in nearly 12 months and on 54kg from barrier seven with five-time Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winning jockey Craig Williams in the saddle is tipped as the one to beat.
Williams rode Stratum Star (2015) to victory last year, which followed his previous winning rides aboard: Toorak Toff (2011), Response (2u010), Rewaaya (2006) and Barley A Moment (2005).
That pattern shows he has gone back-to-back twice previously and if history repeats itself he can do so again and salute for the punters aboard Counterattack.
Favourites have won the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes three times in the past four years and the next best fancied in the markets this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival at $4.60 is the Darren Weir-trained Voodoo Lad.
Weir has prepared the past two Sir Rupert Clarke winners with Trust In A Gust (2014) and Stratum Star last year so chases his third on the trot this weekend.
I Am Invincible five-year-old Voodoo Lad is drawn barrier 10 (into nine) with Chris Parnham retaining the ride after partnering the horse for his past two wins on the trot.
Two back Voodoo Lad saluted in his first Caulfield run winning the Listed Regal Roller Stakes (1200m) by 2.25 lengths before beating home Keen Array at Moonee Valley on September 3 in the Listed Chandler Macleod Stakes (1200m).
Weir is also represented in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes field this season by $26 roughie hope Telopea who gets in on the 52kg minimum weight.
The other two single-figure hopes in the latest Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes odds meanwhile are Bon Aurum ($6) and Under The Louvre ($7.50) at opposite ends of the weight scale allocated 52kg and 58kg respectively.
Local horseman Ciaron Maher saddles-up Bon Hoffa four-year-old Bon Aurum, the stallion coming off a Listed Flemington win over the 1400m on September 10.
He drops two kilos from his winning weight that day and is over the same distance, which he boasts three wins and a third from five starts over so far.
Williams rode Bon Hoffa to victory last start and is replaced in the Group 1 on Saturday by Kerrin McEvoy who chases his second winning ride in the race after his success aboard Pernod (2002).
The Robert Smerdon-trained top weight Under The Louvre also has a wide barrier (14) to overcome on Saturday as the Excellent Art six-year-old looks to win third-up this prep.
His latest victory was the narrow Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) win over the same metres in Brisbane during the winter.
First-up the stallion ran second to Redzel at Caulfield in the Listed The Heath (1100m) before his last start fourth when only 2.15 lengths off the winner Faatinah at Flemington a fortnight ago in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m).
Under The Louvre drops a kilo from his weight in the Bobbie Lewis and is back up to his pet distance (9-2-4-1) with Dwayne Dunn retaining the ride.
Dunn is after his first win in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, but three of the past four winners jumped from a double-digit barrier including Stratum Star (15 of 18) 12 months ago.
See below for the full Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes 2016 field, barriers, jockeys, weights and latest Fixed Win odds provided by Ladbrokes.com.au – home of the weekend’s best betting odds and offers.