Trainer Wez Hunter has confirmed that Bel Thor will take his place in the 2014 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on Saturday.
Bel Thor finished third behind Mouro in the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) last year and he is arguably taking even better form into this year’s race after performing well in all three of his race starts this preparation.
The God’s Own gelding returned to racing in the I&D Group Plate (1300m) at Sandown on September 27 and ran some impressive closing sectionals to finish seventh before he broke through for a maiden win at black type level with a strong performance in the Listed Seymour Cup (1600m) on October 19.
Bel Thor was settled at the tail of the field in the early stages of the James Boag’s Premium Stakes (1800m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day and stormed home in the final stages, but could finish no better than fifth.
Hunter is happy with the form of Bel Thor during his spring campaign to date and told Racing Ahead this morning that he is thrilled with the condition of the five-year-old heading into the Eclipse Stakes this weekend.
“I am really happy with him,” Hunter said.
“He obviously won the Seymour Cup and just had to go too far back from a wide gate at Flemington on Cup Day.
“I thought his run was exceptional, he had the best sectionals and he has come through it really well.
“He is cherry ripe.”
Hunter said that Bel Thor will head to the spelling paddock after running the Eclipse Stakes on Saturday, but Hunter is already looking ahead to the autumn preparation of the talented gelding.
Bel Thor has not raced outside of Victoria since he finished 12th behind Escado in the 2013 edition of the Group 1 South Australian Derby (2500m) at Morphettville, but Hunter said that he plans to take advantage of the likely wet tracks that will be present in New South Wales during the 2015 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“I think that will do him,” Hunter said.
“He has done a pretty good job this spring and we might aim a bit higher in Sydney.
“He is a much better horse on wet tracks and it seems to rain plenty up there, so we will aim somewhere up there in the autumn.”
Hunter is chasing his third win at Group level after taking out the 2013 Group 2 Tab.Com.Au Stakes (1400m) and 2014 The Goodwood (1200m) with his star galloper Smokin’ Joey.