The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
This Saturday Morphettville trainer Phillip Stokes will look to gauge the chances of an international campaign for Australian Cup 2013-bound Adelaide raider Éclair Surprise when they take on a crack field in the $220,000 Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield’s Blue Diamond Day.
A traditional lead-up to the $1 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 9, the Peter Young Stakes has this year drawn an imposing field of Group 1 performers including the top two fancies Mawingo ($3.30) and Mr Moet ($3.40) who ran second and third respectively behind All Too Hard in the CF Orr Stakes last start.
A little further down the Peter Young Stakes betting markets punters will find Stokes’ Blackfriars five-year-old Éclair Surprise at a quote of $10 to win their second-up start for the season.
The consistent gelding is only lightly-raced for their age having had 13 starts for six wins so far and will be vying for their fifth consecutive victory on the weekend.
They enjoyed an excellent spring campaign last season winning a Listed feature at Murray Bridge in October before a successful two win raid in Melbourne.
Firstly on Melbourne Cup Day they enjoyed a narrow victory over Grey Assignment in the Listed Diamond Jubilee Plate (1800m) before backing up 11 days later to enjoy a Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) success at Sandown.
Stokes is the third trainer of Éclair Surprise to date who began their career with Peter Moody in Melbourne, where they enjoyed a black type win at just their third career start, before being sent to Robert Smerdon on the back of a disappointing eighth in the 2011 Australian Guineas two years ago.
They have been in fine form since being sent down to South Australia however and Stokes is hoping they can continue their nice run when stepped up in class on Saturday.
“I’m hoping he can now lob midfield without going right back as they’re a better class of horse and you can’t beat them being that far out of your ground,” Stokes said.
Boosting the trainer’s confidence was Éclair Surprise’s nice first-up win at Morphettville Parks over 1400m on February 9 when carrying a hefty 62.5kg, the drop back to 59kg on Saturday to suit.
“He’s come back in great order,” Stokes said.
“We’ve left him with bit of petrol in the tank, we galloped him Tuesday morning and he had a bit of a blow.
“He’s come on since then but I’m happy with him.”
Also in their favour is the fact Éclair Surprise is undefeated over the 1800m having won all three of their starts over the distance.
Éclair Surprise is already inside the top 10 chances for the Australian Cup at a quote of $18, a price that is sure to shorten should they score an upset on the weekend.
The horse’s run on Saturday and then in the Australian Cup will help Stokes and connections decide if Éclair Surprise is worthy of an overseas’ campaign later in the year culminating with the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup in November.
“I want to see where his level is at, he’s got a great record at 1800m and I’m pretty sure he’ll run out a strong 2000m,” Stokes said.
“If he can run well in these next two races it will give us a lot of confidence going towards his next target.
“The ideal (lead-up) race (to the Singapore Gold Cup) will be the mile race (Champions Mile) in Hong Kong three weeks before the Kris Flyer.
“If he can show us he’s competitive at weight-for-age we’d probably look at those two races.”
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