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Hall of Famer and co-trainer David Hayes believes Long Leaf could be the two-year-old to beat in Saturday’s 2018 Champagne Stakes in Sydney with the colt always showing the potential to be a genuine miler.
The best of the juveniles showing an early ability to stay face off at Royal Randwick on All Aged Stakes Day in the Group 1 $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m) where all of the 13 runners see the mile for the first time.
It is a bit of a gamble for connections and punters then as to which of the babies will see out the distance, but Hayes is quietly confident the Lindsay Park stable’s Fastnet Rock colt Long Leaf will be one of them.
“We always thought with his length and the way he got around that he was a miler, so we’ll find out if we’re right because I think he’s finally got to his right distance,” he told Racing Victoria.
Boasting a 50% winning strike rate having won his opening three career starts in Melbourne, Long Leaf was disappointing when 12th in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Blue Diamond (1200m).
His form improved when only three lengths back sixth at Rosehill for his Sydney debut in late March, the $41 roughie far from disgraced in the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m).
Last time out Long Leaf raced at Randwick where he returns on the weekend and was only one and a half lengths off the upset winner El Dorado Dreaming in the Group 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).
History shows that race has produced more Champagne Stakes winners than any other lead-up in the past 30 years and with the extra 200m working in his favour, Long Leaf presents as a genuine chance to turn the tables on his last start conqueror.
“I actually thought the Sires and Champagne were the ideal races but, because of the speed he showed, we changed and went for the Slipper, where he went terrific and the Blue Diamond, when he got knocked down,” Hayes explained.
“He’s got a huge constitution. He’s a good, tough horse.”
The latest Champagne Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au feature five single-figure chances with Outrageous the firming favourite backed in from $7.50 to $4.80 to improve on his ATC Sires’ third.
Long Leaf is also under $10 for the win at $7.50 drawn in gate nine with jockey Kerrin McEvoy continuing associations.
Further down the Champagne Stakes betting markets punters can find the other Lindsay Park runner, Seberate, at $21 after drawing barrier 11.
Tim Clark comes aboard the Sebring colt who was runner-up in the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) in Melbourne two back before his 11th when still only three and a half-lengths off the winner in the Sydney equivalent.
“Seberate’s drawn a bad gate, but last start had a terrible run from a good gate, so I think we’ll negate that and roll forward on him. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he led,” Hayes said.
To back the Lindsay Park runners in the Champagne Stakes 2018 at the right price this weekend visit Ladbrokes.com.au.
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