Veteran gelding Metal Bender is one of six Chris Waller-trained gallopers that are set to begin their spring campaigns in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
As expected the final field for the key spring lead-up race is dominated by the record-breaking trainer but he won’t have the race his own way with Joseph Pride, Gai Waterhouse, Peter Moody and Guy Walter all accepting with their own talented horses.
In a race that is packed with potential 2013 Spring Racing Carnival stars, the most interesting runner is four-time Group 1 winner Metal Bender who will be competing for the first time since his victory in the 2012 Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) nearly eighteen months ago.
The eight-year-old has been plagued by injuries but indicated that he was ready for a return to the races with two consistent barrier trial performances in the last month and Waller is hopeful the tough gelding can return to his best form, including him in the nominations for both the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
Metal Bender will be joined in the Warwick Stakes field by stablemates Foreteller, Beaten Up, Kelinni, Moriarty and Hawkspur.
Gai Waterhouse-trained Glencadam Gold will begin his third preparation in Australia this weekend after impressing with two strong barrier trial performances behind classy stablemates Fiorente and Carlton House.
The Refuse To Bend gelding has been set for the Melbourne Cup, a race he finished sixth in last year, and Waterhouse will be hopeful he improves on his poor autumn campaign in which he finished tenth in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) and failed to beat a runner home in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).
Apart from Waller, Guy Walter is the only other trainer in the field with multiple runners in the race, with Toydini and Streama both set to begin Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) campaigns, while Peter Moody-trained Sneak A Peek will be making his first appearance at the races since finishing eighth in the 2012 Caulfield Cup.
The favourite in Warwick Stakes betting markets is speedy gelding Rain Affair who is one of only a few horses in the field who heads into the race with a run under his belt having won the Group 3 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Randwick by five and a half lengths a fortnight ago.
Although a number of Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup hopefuls are beginning their preparations in the Warwick Stakes, the race has not been a good lead-up for either feature race in recent years.
Sunline (1999) was the last Cox Plate winner to contest the Warwick Stakes earlier in the year while Descarado (2010) is the only Caulfield Cup winner in the last thirty years to begin their campaign in the Group 2 event.