The 2016 Challenge Stakes field has been released and talented sprinter Ball Of Muscle is set to return to the races in the Group 2 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Ball Of Muscle was unable to record a race win during his 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but he produced a string of consistent performances that showed he can be competitive at the highest level of racing.
The Dubawi gelding returned to the races with a slightly flat third in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m) at Royal Randwick on September 5, but he produced an improved performance when he was only narrowly denied by Rebel Dane in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) at the same venue on September 19.
Ball Of Muscle made his Group 1 debut with a close second behind Buffering in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley on October 2 and he was sent to the spelling paddock after he finished third in the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint (1000m) on October 17.
Pride told Racing Ahead this morning that he is confident Ball Of Muscle will perform well when he returns to the races in the Challenge Stakes, but he expects the five-year-old to take plenty of benefit out of the run as he builds towards the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens in a fortnight.
“He starts off his preparation and he is on path to The Galaxy,” Pride said.
“He is in terrific order and he is a very consistent horse.
“He is still yet to miss a place and he has raced at the highest level.
“He starts off his preparations well, but he builds into them and he is much better when he has a run.
“He is ready to run very well first-up, but he will be a two lengths better horse in The Galaxy.”
Ball Of Muscle will have to be at his very best to win the Challenge Stakes this weekend and he will face ten talented sprinters in the $500,000 event.
Gai Waterhouse has included talented fillies Speak Fondly and English in the Challenge Stakes field, while Kinglike and Ottoman are the other three-year-olds in the race.
Lord Of The Sky will return to the races after he was scratched from the Oakleigh Plate last weekend, while Shiraz, Boss Lane, Va Pensiero, Felines and Rule The River round out the field for the Group 2 event.