Team Hawkes have both Ninth Legion and Toydini in the 2014 Epsom Handicap field and the leading stable is happy with the condition of both gallopers heading into the Group 1 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Ninth Legion started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival with a slightly disappointing performance in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Royal Randwick on August 23, but returned to a semblance of his best form to finish third in both the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 13 and the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) at the same venue on September 27.
The Fastnet Rock gelding will carry the minimum weight of 52 kilograms in the 2014 Epsom Handicap and co-trainer Michael Hawkes told Racing Ahead that the five-year-old is a genuine winning chance based on his win in the 2013 Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1550m) and his fifth place finish in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) earlier this year.
“They are both running and they have both done well,” Hawkes said.
“Ninth Legion was good the other day and he just wanted to shift out a little bit.
“He is a lot better for it, he pulled up bright and he looks good.
“He drops six kilos and he is in with a very good light weight chance.
“He is a performer at the track over the tough mile, winning the Villiers, and if he brings that form back to Saturday he is going to be right in it.”
Toydini returned to racing with an impressive third in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on September 6 and he did not have a great deal of luck when eighth in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at the same venue on September 20.
Hawkes said that jockey Corey Brown did not produce his best ride on Toydini in the George Main Stakes and the Sydney-based trainer said that the Bernardini gelding will be working home strongly in the Epsom Handicap – just like he did when third in the race last year.
“Toydini’s first-up run was sensational and he really hit the line solid,” Hawkes said.
“Corey probably should have just waited a little bit and poked up the fence and he would have got home a lot better (in the George Main Stakes).
“He just got a little bit crowded where he was, but the horse has trained on and we have applied the blinkers again to sharpen him up a little bit.
“He will be doing his best part late.
“I can’t fault the two and they are very good.”
Toydini is currently available at 2014 Epsom Handicap odds of $6, while Ninth Legion has been an early drifter in betting and is out to $13.