The John O’Shea-trained George Main Stakes runner-up Hauraki heads the futures betting markets for the Epsom Handicap to run at Royal Randwick Racecourse this weekend.
A triple shot of elite level Sydney Spring Racing Carnival takes place this Saturday including the $1 million Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m), final acceptances for which close at 9:00am (AEST) on Tuesday morning.
There are currently 37 Epsom Handicap nominated gallopers for the mile classic with the ballot and all-in markets at Ladbrokes.com.au led by the Godolphin-raced Hauraki ($5).
A five-year-old son of Reset, Hauraki has been racing in ultra-consistent form finishing top two in his four latest runs.
During the winter in Brisbane he crossed second to Caulfield Cup third placegetter Our Ivanhowe in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m).
Hauraki also finished second in top class company last start when one and a quarter-lengths behind Australia’s best racehorse Winx in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) on September 17.
This weekend Hauraki races third-up in the Epsom and is out to hand O’Shea with his second win in the feature after his success with Racing To Win (2006) a decade ago.
The last Epsom Handicap winner to back directly up off a run in the George Main Stakes was Rock Kingdom (6th in 2009), while Theseo (2008) the year before ran second in the George Main before his Epsom success.
Chris Waller has dominated the recent Epsom Handicap results winning the race for the past three years on the trot with: Boban (2013), He’s Your Man (2014) and Winx (2015).
O’Shea is confident Hauraki is going his best yet and without Winx to run second behind this weekend, the horseman rates the favourite a livewire chance to break his Group 1 maiden.
“We set a path for him to get to the Epsom and he couldn’t have done any more in the lead-up,” O’Shea told WA Today.
Close second favourite in futures markets for Saturday at $5.50 is the Darren Weir-trained Palentino.
Melbourne Cup winning horseman Weir, who enjoyed the Underwood Stakes win over the weekend with Cox Plate-bound Black Heart Bart, chases his first Epsom Handicap success this spring.
Palentino is weighted on 57kg in the Epsom Handicap weights, one kilo more than Hauraki (56kg).
The four-year-old Teofilo stallion is already a dual Group 1 winner in his short 10-start career to date having won the Australian Guineas over the Flemington mile in the autumn as a three-year-old and the Makybe Diva Stakes over the same track / distance last start.
Beaten favourite in the Makybe Diva Stakes was the fellow Weir-trained Black Heart Bart who franked the form with the runaway Underwood Stakes success last Saturday.
Palentino is now out to secure the Makybe Diva Stakes – Epsom Handicap double for the first time in over 30 years.
The last Epsom Handicap winner to come of a non-Sydney lead-up was Magnitude (1985) 31 years ago who raced at home in New Zealand before the Epsom victory.
Weir is considering adding blinkers to the gear of Palentino in the Epsom Handicap for the first time under race conditions.
“Obviously you need to get every inch you can and it might be just a good little gear change,” he told The Herald Sun.
Futures market order for the Epsom Handicap at Ladbrokes.com.au (Top 5): Hauraki ($5), Palentino ($5.50), Happy Clapper ($8), McCreery ($8), Mackintosh ($10).