Sunday at the Sunshine Coast sees the postponed...
Darren Weir’s Group 3 winner Tonopah will carry top weight in the Christmas Stakes 2016 field at Caulfield Racecourse first-up at Saturday’s Christmas Eve race meet in Melbourne.
The seven-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten is one of a dozen sprinters engaged to face off in the $120,000 Listed Ian McLeod Christmas Stakes (1200m), the handicap clash running as Caulfield Race 6 at 4:40pm (AEDT) on Saturday.
Drawn in gate 10 with Brad Rawiller to ride, Tonopah is lumped with 60kg for his first run since a fifth in the Swan Hill Cup (1600m) back in June.
Prior to that the veteran enjoyed back-to-back victories in Adelaide including the Group 3 RA Lee Stakes (1600m) where he defeated Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance.
Saturday marks the third trip to Caulfield for Tonopah, who is yet to finish in the money at the track, over an unsuitably short distance with the galloper yet to win over less than 1600m.
The next heaviest weighted in the Christmas Stakes this summer are the Pat Carey-trained Dan Zephyr (59.5kg) and Robert Smerdon’s The Bowler (59kg).
Danbird six-year-old Dan Zephyr comes off a good third to Grande Rosso in the VOBIS Gold Bullion (1400m) at Pakenham at the start of the month, while The Bowler chases his first win since the RA Lee Stakes back in 2015.
Dan Zephyr’s last start conqueror Grande Rosso is also engaged in the rematch on Saturday, the in-form Lindsay Park-trained son of Written Tycoon chasing his third win from four starts.
He took out the Pakenham race by over a length carrying 57kg to victory with Craig Williams aboard and steps up to black-type company this weekend with Regan Bayliss coming aboard for the sprint.
Grande Rosso has had five previous runs over the distance, but is another longer-distanced horse that could struggle over the 1200m having run just the one second over the metres to date.
The only other last start winner in the Christmas Stakes field this season is the Cindy Alderson-trained Smart Dart.
The Bel Esprit six-year-old has won seven of his 17 1200m runs including a handicap at Pakenham on December 3 narrowly on a light weight (52kg).
The gelding goes up to 55.5kg on the weekend, but is drawn ideally in barrier five and shapes up as a genuine winning chance again.
The rails-run meanwhile belongs to the local Henry Dwyer-trained Lucky Liberty who is out to improve on his Gold Bullion fifth last start.
He is undefeated over the 1200m boasting four wins from as many runs and will relish the drop back to this distance on the weekend.
Lucky Liberty also comes back from 58kg last start to the 54kg minimum on the weekend.
At his pet distance from the inside barrier with last year’s Melbourne Cup winning hoop Michelle Payne in the saddle, Lucky Liberty could be the one to beat in the Christmas Stakes.
Other notable hopes including the returning Mick Price-trained Caulfield specialist Duke Of Brunswick out wide in gate 11 with Damien Oliver riding and the Chris Waller-trained Sebring four-year-old Sir Bacchus.
Check out the full Christmas Stakes 2016 field, barriers, jockeys and weights below with our No. 1 recommended bookmaker Ladbrokes.com.au to open Caulfield betting markets shortly on the Christmas races.
2016 Christmas Stakes Final Field & Barrier Draw
Caulfield Race 6 (4:40pm) – 24/12/2016
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Br.||Wgt.||Hcp. Rating|
|1||541x66115x||TONOPAH (USA)||Darren Weir||Brad Rawiller||10||60kg||97|
|2||35×4850103||DAN ZEPHYR||Pat Carey||TBA||4||59.5kg||96|
|3||1x66240x97||THE BOWLER||Robert Smerdon||Jacob Rule||8||59kg||95|
|4||152×527171||GRANDE ROSSO||David & B Hayes & T Dabernig||Regan Bayliss (a)||7||57.5kg||92|
|5||x110x14516||SIR BACCHUS||Chris Waller||Craig Newitt||9||56.5kg||90|
|6||15x422124x||DUKE OF BRUNSWICK||Mick Price||Damien Oliver||11||56kg||89|
|7||300121×141||SMART DART||Cindy Alderson||Michael Dee (a)||5||55.5kg||88|
|8||4088×30042||EXCLUSIVE LASS||Nigel Blackiston||TBA||2||54kg||88|
|9||134987×318||MURT THE FLIRT||Brendan McCarthy||Chris Symons||6||54kg||84|
|10||1100×41135||LUCKY LIBERTY||Henry Dwyer||Ms Michelle Payne||1||54kg||82|
|11||x123412x24||ANGRY GEE||Jerome Hunter||Harry Coffey||12||54kg||76|
|12||0145915×87||I’M ABLAZE||Wendy Kelly||Ben Allen (a)||3||54kg||76|
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