Trainer Darren Weir’s shot at successive wins in the 2018 Australian Cup field Gailo Chop will face off against 11 rivals from a wide barrier 10 draw in the weight-for-age classic on Super Saturday at Flemington this weekend.
Last Melbourne Festival of Racing Weir won the Group 1 $1.5 million Australian Cup (2000m) with Humidor (2017) and this Saturday returns saddling-up the race favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au Gailo Chop.
The flying French expat chases a third win on the trot after his smart lead-up success on February 24 in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes Day.
The Peter Young Stakes has produced three of the past four Australian Cup winners including Humidor (2nd) last year, while the double was last completed by Fiorente (2014).
Gailo Chop currently pays a short $2.80 in the post-field Australian Cup odds but has a bit of work to do from gate 10 with Mark Zahra retaining the ride.
The other two best out of the Peter Young Stakes seeking revenge in the rematch on Saturday are the Nick Olive-trained runner-up Single Gaze and Godolphin’s third placegetter Hartnell drawn in barriers five and six respectively.
Always-honest Not A Single Doubt mare Single Gaze has run second in three of her past four starts going back to the Caulfield Cup placing last October.
She was second to Hartnell narrowly beaten in a luckless first-up run in the Group 1 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) before the Peter Young Stakes placing.
Presenting fit third-up and better suited to the Australian Cup distance, Single Gaze is out to be the first mare to take out the feature since triple Melbourne Cup champion Makybe Diva back in 2005.
Hartnell meanwhile is looking to return to his C.F. Orr Stakes winning form and has a strong record of four wins, three seconds and a third from a dozen previous 2000m runs.
Craig Williams continues his association aboard the $4.7 million earner, the hoop after his second Australian Cup winning ride following success in the saddle of Niconero (2009).
Prolific owner Lloyd Williams and his new head trainer at Macedon Lodge Liam Howley are in the Australian Cup field this autumn with a trio of chances led by 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin.
Jumping from gate 11 with Damien Oliver aboard, the veteran eight-year-old stayer is three-from-six at Flemington and comes off a first-up second in the Listed Ladbrokes Mornington Cup Prelude (2000m) from February 24.
Almandin carted 60kg that day and presents fit second-up and better suited to the 59kg at weight-for-age.
He is joined in the line-up by stablemates The Taj Mahal racing for the first time since his Group 2 Sandown Classic (2400m) win over Almandin last November and the stable’s Mornington Cup Prelude winner on debut down under, War Front four-year-old Homesman.