The 2016 Australia Stakes have been released and Group 1 winners Hucklebuck, Mourinho, Rebel Dane and Trust In Gust are all a chance to contest the Group 2 event at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Hucklebuck missed the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival and has not been seen at the races since he failed to fire in the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville on May 16 due to knee problems, but he impressed onlookers with his performance in an exhibition gallop at Morphettville on January 9.
Trainer Phillip Stokes is not expecting a great deal from Hucklebuck in the Australia Stakes, but he is sure that his star galloper will take plenty of benefit out of the run ahead of the Group 1 Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 13 and the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at the same venue a fortnight later.
Rebel Dane returned to his best form when he took out the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) and finished in the placings in both the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) and Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival and he showed that he was ready for a return to racing when he finished third in a barrier trial over 838 metres at Royal Randwick on January 12.
The California Dane entire is also set to head towards the Orr Stakes and Futurity Stakes before a likely return to Sydney during The Championships.
Mourinho scored a boil over win in the Australia Stakes last year and he has the opportunity to join once in a generation equine superstar Black Caviar as the only two-time winner of the race.
The Oratorio gelding scored a maiden win at Group 1 level in the Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 26, but he has not been seen at the races since he failed to fire in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
Trust In A Gust stamped himself as a potential star when he took out the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but his career has not gone to plan since.
The Keep The Faith entire was set to be retired to stud at the end of the 2014/2015 racing season, but that was postponed after he was scratched from the Group 1 BTC Cup (1200m) and he has not been seen at the races since he failed to fire in the Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on August 8.
A total of 19 horses have been included in the 2016 Australia Stakes nominations and the four Group 1 winners are set to take on the likes of Churchill Dancer, Durendal, Holler, It Is Written, Kievann, Nicoscene, Our Harmony, Our Hussey, Rageese, Richie’s Vibe, Runsati, Sirbible, Tried And Tired, Tudor and Written Up.