The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
Racing Victoria have today taken first acceptances for three upcoming Group 1 features with the latest round of declarations closing for the Australian Guineas, Newmarket Handicap and Australian Cup at Flemington Racecourse.
First-up on the calendar, the Group 1 $1 million Australian Guineas (1600m) takes place over the mile at HQ on March 5 with 37 three-year-olds left in contention and can be viewed in full here.
Heading the Australian Guineas 2022 first acceptances are: Victoria Derby winner Hitotsu from the Maher/Eustace stable, the undefeated Pinstriped who won last weekend’s Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes and third in that same key lead-up Captivant for Peter & Paul Snowden.
Hitotsu is aiming to become the first horse in the 40-year plus history of the Australian Guineas to win the race first-up, while CS Hayes runner-up Pascero has also been paid for at first declaration stage.
A host of Australian Guineas entries are also set to race this weekend including Coastwatch, Lightsaber, Ranch Hand and Extreme Flight all entered for the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) on Blue Diamond Stakes Day at Caulfield, while class fillies Espiona, Fangirl, Hinged and Yearning are set to contest the Group 1 Surround Stakes (1400m) in Sydney.
“The Australian Guineas shapes as a David versus Goliath battle as trainers Enver Jusufovic (Pinstriped), Jerome Hunter (Barb Raider) and Julius Sandhu (Sharp Response) take on the country’s leading trainers and biggest owners,” Victoria Racing Club Executive General Manager Racing Leigh Jordon said.
The following weekend on March 12, Flemington is host to its popular ‘Super Saturday’ race card featuring the Group 1 $1.5 million Yulong Stud Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the Group 1 $1.5 million Australian Cup (2000m).
Newmarket Handicap first acceptances also drew 37 entries as the list of sprinters chasing the big prize down the ‘straight six’ narrows, which can be found in full here.
The standout Newmarket-bound runners in the mix include: Chris Waller’s upset Black Caviar Lightning winning three-year-old from last weekend at the track Home Affairs who defeated a luckless Nature Strip in a thriller, the Anthony & Sam Freedman-trained Artorious and John O’Shea’s Classique Legend Stakes winner Lost And Running who returned with a Southern Cross Stakes win in Sydney last weekend.
Waller has also paid first acceptances for his beaten Black Caviar Lightning favourite, Nature Strip, who missed the kick before powering home late but The Everest champ is a doubtful final acceptor due to the handicap conditions of the race.
Home Affairs and Artorious are two of 10 three-year-olds still heading towards Victoria’s premier sprint race along with: Generation, Extreme Warrior, Finance Tycoon, Ingratiating, Marine One, Overpass, Paulele and Ranch Hand.
The reigning Newmarket Handicap winner is also still in contention, Zoutori looking to become the race’s sixth back-to-back winner in the 149-year history of the sprint classic. The last was Redkirk Warrior (2017-18).
“The Yulong Stud Newmarket Handicap could see a second clash of the titans between Home Affairs and Nature Strip but with a large and competitive field that typifies the race,” Jordan said.
Australian Cup first acceptances – available in full here – attracted 32 weight-for-age hopefuls led in early betting by the now Peter Moody-trained Melbourne Cup third placegetter Spanish Mission, The All-Star Mile-bound Godolphin star Cascadian and Kerry Parker’s first-up Group 2 Apollo Stakes winner Think It Over.
This year marks the historic 160th running of the Australian Cup and Waller also remains in with a strong hand of five led by his Melbourne Cup winning mare Verry Elleegant.
The other Waller-trained entries are: Hungry Heart, Great House, Shared Ambition and Yonkers.
Five three-year-olds remain in the potential Australian Cup line-up including Australian Guineas favourite Hitotsu, Victoria Derby runner-up behind him in the spring Alegron, two-time Group 2 winner Forgot You, El Patroness and fellow Black-Type winner at the track Spirit Of Gaylard.
History is against the youngsters however with just three having saluted since 1978: Dulcify (1979), Saintly (1996) and most recently Super Cool (2013).
“The TAB Australian Cup will be run for the 160th time and is set to crown a new weight-for-age star,” Jordan said.
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