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All eyes might be on Shoals and Nature Strip at Moonee Valley this weekend, but one of racing’s premier stayers returns to the track hoping to kick-start her Spring campaign.
Andrew Forsman co-trained mare Bonneval was crowned New Zealand’s champion horse for the second-straight year last month following Group 1 success in the $750,000 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield in 2017, and this Saturday the stable hopes the five-year old can replicate her run to glory as she sets out to defend her title in the $250,000 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at The Valley.
Before suffering a ligament strain that cost her the entirety of Autumn, Bonneval followed a similar path last year on her way to becoming a three-time Group 1 winner. Twelve-months on, Forsman claims she’s returned even stronger.
“She’s stronger as you would expect as a five-year-old mare now” Forsman told The Herald Sun earlier this week.
“Physically and the way she’s working, we couldn’t be happier with her.”
Jumping from barrier 7 in the Tan Chin Nam Stakes this time last year, Bonneval’s turn of foot was on full display as she raced home from a deep three-wide position to win by a head.
Barrier 9 sees the five-year old jump from a similar position this time around, and although you could hardly call her a roughie, at $7.00 odds with Ladbrokes she presents as an interesting chance in the 11 horse field.
Punters would also be wise to pay attention to Bonneval’s strong first-up record. She’s won two of her three first-up attempts, but will still have her work cut out for her in a race that features three other Group 1 winners.
As far as competition goes, James Cummings’ Hartnell presents the biggest challenge. Opening as the $3.70 favourite, the eight-year old veteran last raced on August 18, placing second behind Showtime in the $200,000 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield. But after a strong showing, the step up in trip here should suit the multiple Group 1 winner nicely.
On the next line of betting, 2017 Caulfield Gunieas winner Mighty Boss opens at $15.00, although the wide draw certainly won’t help his chances. Mick Price’s Hiyaam, a fellow Group 1 New Zealand winner could also figure in the placings from barrier 10.
What Bonneval has over her opponents though is a nice long break. She’s a lightly raced mare, which you can’t often say for a five-year old, and Forsman feels that should help her during this prep.
“If you put the positive spin on it, it means she’s had a good break and that’s helped her develop and furnish her zest for racing” Forsman told RSN’s Racing Pulse on Wednesday.
“She’s going great, she’s definitely come back a more mature and stronger mare, whether that means she just needs this first up run, but on her work you can’t fault her and she seems very forward”.
Nominated for the Caulfield Cup, a race she placed 14th in last year, as well as the Melbourne Cup and the Cox Plate, Bonneval’s future looks a little unclear as far as Cup’s go this Spring.
Having won seven of twelve career starts though, this weekend should provide a crystal clear picture of her immediate future.
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